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Steve Irwin: Not a True ‘Wildlife Warrior’

As habitat preservation and wildlife conservation have become more important worldwide and more popular in the mainstream media, many people have seized the opportunity to make a living by portraying themselves as “ambassadors” for wildlife. Many of these “wildlife warriors,” such as Jack Hanna, Jarod Miller, Jim Fowler, and the late Steve Irwin and Marlon Perkins, have based their celebrity status on showcasing wild animals in film, television, magazines, and other forums. Although their supposed message-emphasizing habitat protection and endangered species conservation-is often right on target, their actions are often quite contradictory.

While these warriors claim to educate the world about the plight of wildlife and the importance of protecting animals whom we share the planet with, any positive message is lost when the presenter exploits and harasses the very animals who are meant to be protected. Hauling animals to television studios or ambushing an alligator with ropes, duct tape, and a camera crew compels people to approach wild animals themselves or—even worse—purchase one to keep as a “pet,” thereby fueling the cruel exotic-animal trade.

These celebrities’ work becomes more about showboating egos and titillating audiences at the expense of animals than about education. Does the public really need to see someone dragging a frightened snake out of a hole and flailing the animal around on a stick in order to realize how important and morally imperative it is to respect and protect that animal?

Wildlife Biologist or Hollywood Star?

Appearances on television talk shows and at conferences and community events subject animals-including babies who should be with their mothers-to completely unnatural and stressful environments. Many celebrity wildlife exhibitors use animal suppliers and assistants with poor records of animal care. Self-professed wildlife warriors make their livings by harassing and mishandling animals who are minding their own business in their natural environments. Animals’ homes are invaded, their nests and dens are disrupted, and they are dragged by their tails, netted, roped, and forced to endure physical invasion of their personal space as the exhibitors jump on them and wrestle them to the ground.

True wildlife experts, such as Jean-Michel Cousteau, frown upon the idea of hauling exotic animals around in an endless parade of shows and exhibits and disturbing animals in their natural habitats. Cousteau stated that Irwin would “interfere with nature, jump on animals, grab them, hold them, and have this very, very spectacular, dramatic way of presenting things. Of course, it goes very well on television. It sells, it appeals to a lot people, but I think it’s very misleading. You don’t touch nature, you just look at it.”

PETA commends those true wildlife warriors who work daily to educate the public about wildlife conservation and to protect the habitats of our wild-animal friends, all while giving them the privacy and the space that they need and deserve.

What You Can Do

  • Don’t patronize any display where live animals are showcased, and encourage your friends and family members to do the same
  • Contact television networks that feature live-animal displays in their programs and express your opposition.
  • One of the best tools that we have for educating the public is the letter to the editor. Please submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, bringing this issue to the attention of people who might not have given it much thought. Ask people to consider the cruelty involved in capturing and carting wild animals around in tiny cages in the name of conservation.

Click here to donate to PETA.

Commenting is closed.
  • Ian says:

    There were good and bad things about Steve Irwin. His early episodes were filled with scenes of animal cruelty. Some people referred to him as “that annoying wildlife stirrer” back then, rather than a “wildlife warrior”. He was always a strange dichotomy. He did seem to gain a greater appreciation of animals as time went by, or at least became more aware of their stress levels and feelings. I am sure if his life had continued he would have became very conscious of cruelty and even condemned his own behaviour. Sadly he will never know the wisdom that comes with old age and reflection. He has now achieved legendary status and has even been placed on a pedestal by some conservation groups, who see him as some kind of saintly figure who achieved many things but did no wrong. But he was only a man, who had many failings and weaknesses. There were good things and bad things about his personality and his actions and the marks he left on the world. I guess we can only see the good things and try to learn from his mistakes.

  • T says:

    Safe the wildlife donate to PETA Woo Hoo…..Yeh

  • Me says:

    Seriously, are you people idiots? A wild animal does NOT need to be wrestled out of it’s hiding place or chased down, wrestled with and then shoved in the camera lens while a man shouts and waves his hands around in the terrified animal’s face in order for us to view them or even conserve them. Watch some real wildlife documentaries. You can see the animals crystal clear without handling them.

    Steve’s heart may have been in the right place but he caused a lot of undue and completely unnecessary stress to a lot of animals. That’s not humane.

    And now that I think about it, he did animals another disservice by over simplifying what is actually a complicated social structure by how much he prattled on about dominance, and usually incorrectly applied dominance at that.

  • Hades says:

    Wow I can’t believe this article. Steve Irwin cared, just look at the wildlife rehabilitation centre he started at his own cost. This article is naievity at its worst. Note to auther. Sorry you never made it. Don’t be a green eyed monster. RIP Steve.

  • Elektra says:

    Carol Crunkhorn, man talk about being naive. Steve Irwin, yes he wrestled with alligators, but do your research before you tell everyone they are naive. He opened up his own sanctuary for these animals and yes he wrestled with animal but only to teach us about them. Once again, pissing one animal off to save the species is fine, he never hurt them, in fact he saved quite a few of them. He made a show of his life, big whoop. He taught us how to love animals and wildlife as much as he did. And he died for what he loved.

  • Carol Crunkhorn says:

    Anyone who thinks tv celebrities who wrestle wild animals are doing it for anything other than fame or fortune are seriously naive. Steve Irwin died, but that doesn’t make him any better than he was when he was alive. His first tv shows proved he had no empathy with animals, wild or otherwise. Craig Busch, The Lion Man, is another. He is now back in charge of Zion, but hopefully not the big cats that he had no compunction about de-clawing when he first opened Zion; cats that are now crippled because of this brutal procedure. Get real people, you don’t hear much about the real wildlife heroes unless you seek them out, but one thing you can be sure of is that they do not wrestle wild animals and make a tv series of it.

  • Elektra says:

    Tell me something… how are we supposed to know what’s out there or even how to spot or recognize danger ourselves if someone does not show s what it would look like in the first place? I’m all about saving wildlife more than I am for saving humanity at this point, especially when there are people out there like PETA. Steve Irwin is, and shall remain my forever hero and the comment Lisa made, simply upsetting one animal is worth it just to make sure their species survives! PETA, go and get real jobs and leave people who are doing theirs correctly alone. Damn! This is just like the incident with Petsmart! Y’all need to really learn how to get you facts right before accusing innocent people of wrongdoing. Seriously though, you people are so disrespectful! How do you think Bindi would react if she saw this?! Oh wait, lemme guess, you wouldn’t care because she doesn’t care about the animals either huh? 

  • korey smith says:

    he help animals. he saved them and healed them if they were injured.

  • Evan says:

    Good grief. Y’all remember how Steve Irwin died? One of these precious little creatures y’all speak of stabbed him through the chest causing him to bleed to death. Isn’t that just cute and cuddly! Heaven forbid he pet a snake though.

  • Nasdaq7 says:

    I agree 100% with this article. When I first saw how Steve Irwin man-handled the animals and the show I knew it was all about money. The fact that he handled the most dangerous of animals also leads me to believe it was about money.

  • Lisa says:

    I don’t think this article is very thought through. Steve Irwin made money by presenting himself as an entertaining character. He made money by presenting these animals this way. Do you know what he did with this money?
    Beside the fact that some animals would walk away from one of these experiences possibly a little upset, you don’t think it was worth it, saving the amount of wildlife that he did by these means? Upsetting one snake so that its entire species is given a chance, that’s wrong? That says more about you than the people you’re writing about, in my humble opinion.

  • Follower of Steve says:

    Wow..Just wow… I can agree with alot of stuff PETA has but not this… This is just… Wow…

  • StupidPETA People says:

    PETA u need to know this: steve irwin handeled animals correctly and so does jack hanna and that “true naturlist” lady she doesnt know squat! How are you to study wildlife if u just look at it?!? U need to explore which involves touching wildlife! All those people besides the “true naturlist” lady were exceptional people

  • Ariane says:

    I am dissapointed with this article. Steve was a teacher of wildlife and as a result lots of ignorant people started to learn more about wildlife and started to respect them. As a result I am sure thousands of wildlife animals will be respected because of his work that probably wouldn’t have. Please give the man some respect . He worked his butt off for wildlife and he should be remembered for that. He was a true teacher.

  • patricks camera says:

    thank you for loving animals people. that’s nice. i love dogs, so you don’t have a problem with breaking into your house, cornering your dog in the bathroom, noose-sticking her neck, dragging her out into the street, shoving a light into her face, forcing her mouth open making her bite a hard glass and plastic camera lens; ‘crikey! to how how terrifying and vicious these animals can be!’ can we ‘dance’ around with her out there, with our camera and lights to show how ‘great we are with animals?’ poke her with sticks and show her off so that your friends can see her and what a ‘buueaty she is? did u ever try to survive in the wild? those animals live outdoors, in trees, holes in the ground and sleep in the grass, totally exposed to the cold, heat, rain, snow. if they are going to eat and live and feed their babies, they have to work at that 24/7 until the day comes when they are on the dinner plate. Steve was a showboat. if he gave 2 beans about animals, he would have had some respect. all u animal/irwin lovers, go live for 72 hours the way those animals have to live. without your car and starbucks, bed and airconditioning and police keeping you safe. i’d like to drag you out of your bed and show the world how much of a ‘buueaty’ you are in the middle of the night because i love people so much!

  • OMG says:

    Steve Irwin, through his handling of animals made people love them. The time is long gone when people can sit and watch a boring documentary that just shows an animal without human interaction. It creates distance between humans and animals. How can you love an animal when you don’t see how beautiful they truly are? That’s what steve accomplished. He taught us all how to love animals, even the uncuddly ones. If you truly watched his shows, with unbiased eyes, you would see that his only message was conservation, and preservation of all animals and their habbitats, not to keep wild animals as pets.

  • ARW says:

    You make the comment in the article questioning “Does the public really need to see someone dragging a frightened snake out of a hole and flailing the animal around on a stick in order to realize how important and morally imperative it is to respect and protect that animal?” The answer for the vast majority of the public is YES! Not everybody get to go to these places and see what needs to be protected. It becomes just an abstract concept. A kid growing up in the city often has a very limited ability to see wildlife in the wild. I dont agree with all animal shows but some, like Steve’s is more helpful to conservatikon than PETA will possably ever be. You want to help, get people out to see it first hand. Provide, with all those donated dollars, free trips to National Parks for inner city youth. After all, actions speak louder than words.

  • Sanjay says:

    I agree to these comments. Even though the intention of Steve and other wildlife celebs was to protect but their action always made me think why is he catching a snake or lizard that is roaming in jungle. Also what impact that has on kids who after watching him catch wild reptiles may try without understanding what it may result into.

  • O.o says:

    Oh god, I ALWAYS LOVED Steve Irwin, he made me love animals and want to help them, he made me an animal lover, I’ve always LOVED him, he’s been my hero, i know this is off topic but if Joan Jett supports PETA IDK which side to choose, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Steve Irwin but Joan Jett inspires me to become a rock artist! I HATE THIS! PICKING YOUR CHILD-HOOD HERO OR YOUR ROCK INSPIRATION! O.o Grrrrr.

  • Kenzie 13 says:

    My last comment was a harsh one but I just wanted to prove a point, Steve Irwin taught the world to love wildlife. I mean we all share the same goal: TO SAVE WILDLIFE RIGHT?? so we shouldnt be negative towards each other. Everyone is intitled to their own opinions but I truely believe that if you have nothing nice to say dont say anything at all so, please let all of us work together. Have you talked to the Irwin’s, maybe they can explain their methodes to you.. Remember we’re all doing this for wildlife not for our egos.

  • Kenzie 13 says:

    HOW DARE YOU?!? Steve Irwin was a Wildlife Warrior! He taught me and THE WORLD how to love animals. He taught me the importance of saving these animals, that our ecosystems depend on it. Steve Irwin knew that the key to saving a spieces of animal was to teach the general public to love and care about them because, ” people want to save the things they love.”(Steve Irwin). It disguists that you people would even write an article in a negative prespective of Steve, he has done some much for wildlife. You can say whatever you want but I will defend Steve Irwin and his conservation methodes till the day I die.

    P.S I”m going to be just like Steve, a Wildlife Warrior

  • Irwin Warrior says:

    Ignorant Ignorant Ignorant. How dare you! Steve Irwin loved, respected, and adored animals, and who are you to judge a man who dedicated his life to education, conservation, and preservation of all animals? Im shocked that anyone could and did say different, and would accuse Steve of harassment.OBSURD!

  • ashley says:

    I can’t believe some of the comments I’m reading.

    Steve Irwin was definitely a flamboyant and funny human being but people think that, in order to love the man, you have to love his intrusive methods.

    I wish PETA partnered with PBS/Animal Planet to showcase some of their documentaries for free on your website. Only then will people learn to RESPECT animals, their mystical relationship to nature and value their freedom.

    That’s certainly how I came to understand that petting a wild animal was not as important as leaving it alone.

  • PETA says:

    Re: MK. While we are glad to hear that Steve Irwin’s show encouraged you to love animals, we regret to say that this came at a cost. While Irwin may have claimed to have educated the world about the plight of wildlife and the importance of protecting animals, any positive message is lost when he exploited and harassed the very animals whom are meant to be protected. We strongly urge you to read more about Steve Irwin, and the cruelty behind his show, here:

  • MK says:

    PETA, it’s amusing in a sick way how, at times, I find you folks to make valid points. But when it comes to stuff like this, I just have to shake my head. Steve Irwin is the reason I love animals. For as long as I can remember, I’ve known his name. I used to watch his TV shows almost every day. He taught me to love nature and animals. He taught me to see the beauty in everything, even snakes and slimy things that any other little girl would despise. As for the harassing, upsetting, etc, you can’t exactly walk up to a croc and get a good camera angle on it without some restraining. He didn’t hurt them. My mom gets me up every morning for school, even though I don’t want to, and doesn’t leave me alone until I’m up. Is that abusive in any way? No. It’s not. Your allegations that he encouraged people to keep wild animals as pets is bogus. If anything, he only sent messages that they belonged in the wild. Can’t you at least see his true love and passion for these animals and pay him some respect? You can rant and rave with all your radical statements, but tell me…what have you all done to get people to love these animals? What have you done to show their beauty? Nothing. You won’t save anything until you get people to love them the way Steve Irwin got me to love them.

  • PETA says:

    Re: L Pilgrim: Steve Irwin’s television program typically involved invading animals’ natural environments to agitate, harass, harangue, upset, and disturb them. He also subjected animals to the stress of public appearances and television shows, where they could not understand what was going on. It’s important to keep in mind that when wild animals appear on television shows or are used in photo ops, they are typically being forced into frightening, loud, and stressful situations for no reason other than to bring publicity to an animal trainer or handler. Although Irwin’s verbal message of animal conservation was often on target, his actions spoke louder than his words. He undoubtedly encouraged others to keep wild animals as pets and to mishandle and harass animals in the wild. For tips on how you can humanely help wildlife, visit

  • L Pilgrim says:

    There is value in showcasing animals that otherwise would not be appreciated or understood by viewers. Unfortunately, human nature demands visual connectedness to something we care about, it is very difficult to love or feel that you have truely begun to understand something without getting to see it. I believe the way in which someone like the late Steve Irwin showcased the animals in his show has done far more good than “stressed out” or caused “physical invasion of their personal space”, especially when you consider that much footage was taken while rescuing or relocating the animals. I disagree with your statement “While these warriors claim to educate the world about the plight of wildlife and the importance of protecting animals whom we share the planet with, any positive message is lost when the presenter exploits and harasses the very animals who are meant to be protected.” Any positive message is lost? This simply is not true, infact the awe and respect that is gained may not be possible with many people otherwise. Perhaps one day the common respect and understanding of the world’s wildlife will mean no one will need to “interfere” with it, but right now can’t you agree that there is a long way to go, and someone like Steve Irwin has been an absolute champion for the cause in a very short amount of time. I little perspective goes a long way with this sort of thing. Now for those who do not have the background and true understanding of the species they are “showing” to the public, I’m sure there are many cases where the experience and learning by the viewers is of much lesser value, and therefore would be best left to those who can do it better. There are many shows on television I’ve seen that have made me shake my head, because it’s obvious that they not only don’t understand the animals they are pursuing, but they are actually frightened and juvenile about them so it’s not that there isn’t cause for concern.
    Nurturing an understanding, isn’t that what you’re trying to do? And you can’t be positive about some who have done that AND had the public spotlight to do it big? It’s these sorts of views that keeps me from actively supporting PETA.

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