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Interview with Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin -- Part 5: Don't Try This at Home

LOUNGE LIZARDS



ANNIE GELLATLY
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: We've met some Australians who are skeptical about what you're doing. They say that you may inspire kids to try to do too much of this kind of stuff on their own. Have you been accused of that before?

STEVE: Yeah, I've been accused of that by everybody, in every country. However, several times a show--I don't know how often--but I'm continually saying, "I'm a professional" and "I've been doing this since I was born." I was born into it, and my apprenticeship's been 38 years, and I seem to be going on and on about that. I'm doing it all the time in the field, and it's John's [John Stainton, Steve's producer] job to edit it up and make sure that it's a happy medium of how often it's said or when it's said--because what I'm doing is more dangerous than a stick of dynamite. You know, you can touch a stick of dynamite, but if you touch a venomous snake it'll turn around and bite you and kill you so fast it's not even funny.

TERRI: You'll never see them showing a car race on television and say, "Don't drive like this." You'll never see them showing a movie where they go in and shoot everybody and then say, "Don't do this at home." I challenge you to find a documentary where David Attenborough's being chased by an elephant seal saying, "Don't get between an elephant seal and the water." I think we're the only ones that say that, and to date, the mail that I've gotten has been like the woman up in Brisbane whose little boy had been bitten by a death adder. But because she had seen [our documentary] "Suburban Killers" and knew first aid with snake bites, not only did she not panic, her little boy didn't panic. They put a pressure bandage on, he went to hospital, and he lived to see another day. She said if she hadn't seen our show, her little boy probably would have died.

STEVE: Nothing is more important than that small boy's life, and I'm very proud that I would've had a hand in saving him. I've probably saved thousands of peoples' lives with my educational message on snake bites, how to get in around venomous anything. Yeah, I'm a thrill seeker, but crikey, education's the most important thing.

SA: John mentioned that you just did a shoot for the TV series Survivor. What were they having you do?

STEVE: Yeah, they tapped into my head for the potential dangers of some of the Australian animals that they're going to be confronted with, and I went through the immobilizing pressure bandage technique, all of that.

SA: So you were helping them understand what they needed to watch out for to keep their cast safe?

STEVE: Absolutely. Not just them, everyone. There's a mini-city being built, and so they are in prime snake habitat, and a few crocs, but nothing's really going to hurt them, but yeah, I touched on a lot of that. You know, ice on certain spider bites, what to look for, how to avoid it. People tap into me for my expertise on trying to stay alive. And you know, I really do try to tell kids, "Don't do what I do."

JOHN STAINTON (STEVE'S PRODUCER): You know, I think that message is strong. We do look at all the e-mails and I tell you, if there were a strong message coming out that we're getting the wrong message out, we would change.

TERRI: By the same token, we want to encourage people to do what Steve is doing. If somebody says, "I'd like a career in wildlife but I'm not smart enough," or "I'm not rich enough," or "I don't have time to do it " or whatever the excuse is, we do a lot of lecture work with students right up to seniors on, "Don't let anything stand in the way from following your heart and doing what you want to do." So while we still say, "Be careful, don't do this, he's an expert," off camera, we do a lot of lectures about pushing your limits. And Steve's a good icon for that.

STEVE: No matter where you go and what you do in America, you turn the tele on and you're confronted with violence. I think we're instrumental in giving kids something very exciting to look at¿so I do catch western diamondbacks¿but I talk to the kids of Arizona and say, "Please don't play with western diamondbacks like I do." I think that's a heck of a lot safer than a kid watching or playing a video game where you're killing all the time.


Back to Part 4: Adrenaline Junkie?

Ahead to Part 6: Is the Croc Hunter Ever Afraid?

Back to Introduction

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