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Legacy of Steve Irwin helps students, teacher learn about, connect with nature

Steve Irwin, known as the “Crocodile Hunter” has left an incredible mark on the world; igniting a passion for wildlife and conservation that goes beyond just being entertainment. Steve Irwin Day, celebrated each year on Nov. 15, celebrates the birth of one of Irwin’s favorite animals – Harriet, the Galapagos land tortoise who lived to a whopping 175 years old. Students and teachers take this opportunity to consider wildlife, show support and raise awareness for the needs of animals and wild places with some of these ideas.

For Junior Kaden Rush, Irwin has had a profound impact on his view of nature and wildlife. 

“When I watched his TV show and documentaries, I felt like I was there and I was enthusiastic about learning about nature. What made Irwin so cool was his fearlessness when I came to interacting with dangerous animals,” Rush said. “He had this incredible ability to connect with creatures which made learning about animals really exciting and so engaging. (Irwin) had inspired me to develop a deep appreciation of nature since I was a child.”

However, though Rush has been fascinated by Irwin’s ability to connect animals to the viewers, he also believes Irwin’s capability to integrate conservation had just as big of an importance.

 “(Irwin’s) coolness also extends beyond just his encounters. Like he was also emphasizing his importance of conservation, educating the world about the needs of protecting the environment and species,” Rush said. “Like the whole reason he hunted crocodiles was to—if I recall correctly—help the rehabilitation and rescue efforts, which were truly admirable.”

Likewise, AP Biology teacher Eric Rauch said he finds Irwin’s passion for wildlife commendable and unique.

“Maybe he was just crazy but that would also be crazy bravery, but I just feel like he created a positive energy around the whole process of science,” Rauch said. “His legacy includes the wonders of how animals interact with the wonders of nature itself and if people continue to watch what he has done, people will see and appreciate the animal kingdom like he did, making nature more understood.”

Irwin’s show, “The Crocodile Hunter”, ran from 1997-2004, making 64 episodes of the television series. This wildlife documentary series features both Irwin and his wife, Terri Irwin, which ran on Animal Planet as the network’s highest rated series at that time. Although it’s views has since dropped, Rauch said the show is still an impact on people today

“Just that enthusiasm and love for animals, anytime he said the word ‘crikey’. You know he could take the most hostile animal and he would put it in loving terms like, ‘oh crikey! He’s a little cranky’, and then you see this animal that could bite your arm off. He was always enthusiastic and yet caring for the animals, and I think this friendliness is something more people need to learn,” he said. “My favorite animal is the Marine Iguana, ironically also from the Galapagos Islands, so just watching him interact with them and the delicate nature of their ecosystems is something that I think everyone would have appreciation for.”

Senior Uma Kalluparambil also thinks that Irwin was an undaunting person by being able to face dangerous animals with humanity.

“When Irwin actually encountered a Great White, although the creature seemed menacing, it was actually super cute,” she said. “(Irwin) was confident enough to feed and pet the shark, which attacked the shark cage. But this became my favorite episode and (Irwin) inspired me to observe the field of marine biology.”

Although Irwin was known mainly for relocating crocodiles, his hazardous encounters with sharks has impacted Kalluparambil’s interests and grew her fondness of marine life.

“He got me interested in Sharks,” Kalluparambil said, “And that led me to my awful Sharknado movie phases, but it honestly articulated my fondness for marine life. Like I would want to be like him and meet an orca and I am certainly aware that I will be torn into shreds in a millisecond, but orcas are just so cool. They are insanely smart, interdependent, matriarchal and compassionate.”

Rush further believes that Iriwin went beyond just a figure who shows up on television, reflected by how his work is still being carried on to this day.

“What (Irwin) created was his lasting legacy even after his untimely death which is still felt today as his family still continues his works at Australian zoos. He is more than just a TV personality; he is a true hero who has impacted the community by inspiring so many people; blending education and exhilarating adventures,” Rush said. 

Caroline Just
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