Should Steve Irwin have introduced son Bob to a crocodile?
It's amazing the uproar that immediately followed crocodile hunter Steve Irwin's debut introduction of son Bob to crocodiles. Of course he did nothing wrong. I can think of several reasons why Steve might have introduced one-month old Bob to crocodiles publicly.
1.One day, Bob is likely to help run the crocodile park, so get him aware of the crocs early. This is the best way for him to develop an intuitive sense for crocodiles, a priceless gift that is far more likely to save his life in later years than the preferred human approach of keeping children isolated in cotton wool where they will absorb the public's phobias and fears.
2.Steve Irwin is a professional, so knows how to handle crocodiles safely, probably better than anyone else in the world. He tries to generate perceived danger to make his show more entertaining. But really, son Bob was as safe as houses.
3.By sharing this initiation publicly, Steve was trying to show the public that crocs are safe if you treat them with a little respect and acceptance. The two can live together!
The mistake he made was not realising just how stupid and estranged from nature humans really are. Once you cross their anthroprudic line (more beetle), they get defensive and offended. But it is possible to understand and respect a dangerous animal until they are no longer a threat to you. If you work out their reasons, they become admirable creatures and even soul mates. Though not amongst crocodiles, I also grew up with spiders, lizards, beetles, frogs, and other things that many humans find offensive. From their armchairs, humans cannot see the value of getting to know animals in your early years, as a way of pre-empting phobias with intuitive natural senses. Even the pseudo-biologists and naturalists that should know better fail to know other species and their world to the point where they can see their hearts and know how they think. There are few like Steve with the learnt gift of insight for nature. This gift involves understanding attunement and wildness, two words you will not find much about in biology or societies' thoughts. But take heart Steve, there are a handful of voices around the world who do understand nature because they attuned with it early in life, and support what you did and your attempt to grow one more of us. Yes, children do flesh out the scope of their concepts and assumptions in the first few years of life (more beetle), so getting your son used to nature under your highly controlled and safe conditions was admirable. Keep it up.
One day, Bob might also be able to teach humans how to tolerate crocodiles, snakes, beetles and non-fluffy creatures, before they can reach for the spray can in their minds. (posted 6 January 2004)
Yesterday, we learned that Steve died from a stingray attack. I am very sorry about this news indeed, but heartened knowing that his many beneficial influences on wildlife will live on. You could make a donation to one of his legacies, the Wildlife Warriors.