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"Crocodile Hunter" Fans May Be Revenge-Killing Stingrays

Stephanie Peatling in Sydney, Australia
for National Geographic News
September 13, 2006
 
In the wake of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin's death by stingray, some
fans may be carrying out revenge attacks against the fish.

As many as ten stingrays have been found dead, with their tails cut off, along the southern coast of Australia's Queensland state (map of Australia).

Irwin was killed at a reef off Queensland on September 4, when a stingray he was following whipped around and pierced the TV personality's heart with poison spines along its tail.

(Related video: about stingrays and their poisonous potential.)

This week two maimed stingrays were found at Deception Bay, near the state capital of Brisbane. Another eight of the usually docile animals were found at Dundowran Beach.

Investigation

Queensland's Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries is investigating the incidents. If the perpetrators are found, they could be prosecuted under the state's animal-cruelty laws.

A biologist with the department, Wayne Sumpton, was called in to inspect the Deception Bay stingrays but could not say what prompted the attacks.

"We do not know if these incidents are motivated by Steve Irwin's death," Sumpton said. "At the moment, that is just speculation.

"We do find dead stingrays with their tails cut off from time to time," he added. "People usually do it if they are worried about getting stung by a stingray. Or they just do it maliciously, but it is pretty rare."

Fishers sometimes cut off stingrays' tails to keep from getting stung when the unwanted animals end up on hooks, Sumpton says. But such incidents are not common, he says—fishers usually cut their lines to allow the venomous rays to swim away.

"Steve Would Be Disgusted"

Irwin's producer John Stainton told Australia's ABC News that he was "horrified to hear about the slaughter of these stingrays, and I know that Steve would be absolutely disgusted.

"Any revenge on any animal—no matter whether it's a croc that's taken somebody or a shark that might have taken somebody—used to absolutely turn his stomach. … He always said [violence] is not the way to deal with the animals in the ocean," he added.

Animals "are doing what they do because that's what they're about. And the fact that he was killed by a stingray is absolutely his fault," Stainton said.

"I mean, he was in their territory, and as he always said, if you're in their territory, you play by their rules.

"But it doesn't mean to say that people should be going out and taking revenge on stingrays."

Public Memorial Announced

Meanwhile, details of a public memorial service for Irwin were announced today.

The service will be held September 20 at the Crocoseum, the 5,500-seat open-air theater at the Australia Zoo, the wildlife park owned by Irwin and his U.S.-born wife, Terri.

Attendees can make a donation to Irwin's Wildlife Warriors fund, Terri Irwin said today in her first public statement since her husband's death.

The service will also be broadcast live on television and radio in Australia, Asia, and the United States. Large television screens will be erected in Brisbane and on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

"I cannot see how a memorial service would work in any other place other than the Crocoseum, which he built here at the zoo and of which he was so proud," Terri Irwin said in the statement.

Terri Irwin described her late husband as her "soul mate" and thanked the community for their "overwhelming outpouring of love, support and prayers."

A private funeral was held at the Australia Zoo this past weekend.

Irwin's father, Bob Irwin, told the press, "Because Steve loved the bush so much and yarning around the camp fire," the service "was just like he would have wanted, with everyone telling their favorite stories about him around a candlelit fire."

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