Who is your conservation hero?

As many lockdowns ease, South Africa remains pretty intense. Keeping our blog busy – we are looking at some of our conservation heroes! This blog we quizzed Predator Research Coordinator, Jamie, on his conservation hero.

Who is your conservation hero?

There are so many names you can think of when we think about conservation, David Attenborough of course, Alan Rabinowitz – what an incredible person – Ullas Karanth, but my conservation hero is Steve Irwin.

Why did you choose them?

There are a fair few opinions on Steve Irwin, but when I was a kid, his excitement and passion was just mesmerising and inspiring. He was so excited by all things nature and I ended up getting a floppy hat like his, and I believe my brother/parents still have videos of me pretending to be him with my Aussie accent peering through grass, no doubt talking about a creature rather less dangerous than most of the animals I would have watched him presenting! So I think he really set off major conservation/animal love alarms somewhere inside me and his foundation continues to fund vital projects globally, which is awesome.

Steve Irwin
Image from: Irish News at: https://www.irishnews.com/magazine/entertainment/2018/10/27/news/steve-irwin-s-children-launch-wildlife-tv-show-honouring-dad–1470660/

When did you first hear about him/become interested in what he did?

At my primary school we had an Adventure Club. We would have all sorts of things organised by one of our members of staff – climbing Snowden, walking the Brecon Beacons, first aid courses, camping in local woods and learning survival skills and things like that. On one of the after school times we met up, Mr Martin showed us a video of ‘The World’s Ten Deadliest Snakes’ and it was presented by Steve Irwin – hooked! Not long after, one of the sessions was someone bringing in loads of animals like snakes, tarantulas and giant stick insects and things like that. Eight year old me held everything, proudly, even things the year 8 boys wouldn’t hold!

Holding a Western stripe-bellied sand snake (Psammophis subtaeniatus)
Holding a Western stripe-bellied sand snake (Psammophis subtaeniatus)

Do you think it has influenced you in how you have developed your conservation career/interests?

Certainly to some degree. I think my dad has always liked nature so that was a base, and so then when Steve was so all-action-in-love with nature it certainly set something off in me I think. I am not sure it has influenced specifically how I have developed in conservation – I do like crocs and snakes and other dangerous animals, but I haven’t quite gone to the lengths of catching mambas… yet. I think he inspired the pathway for sure, and then as I got older perhaps others like Alan Rabinowitz and reading all about his life and work sent me towards big cats and other large carnivores… and goats!

More than happy to assist with goat matters!
More than happy to assist with goat matters!

If you could meet Steve Irwin, what would you ask them?

Very good question. I have never really thought much about that. Maybe how many words has he made up – he always used to say things in his excitement that just weren’t words, which mum and I found particularly amusing. I think more seriously it would have to be about how we can change people’s mindsets. I said earlier that people had a lot of opinions on him – ‘shouldn’t be jumping on crocs, taking his baby in with him etc.’ – to me he showed just how amazing animals were, just how much trust he had in them to not attack until they really felt they had no choice, removing large crocs form water systems in the only way he knew how at the time, to prevent them from being shot by locals who, understandably, didn’t want that danger around their families. I saw all that as educational, amazing and inspiring, but many saw it as cruel, irresponsible and wrong. But we don’t live in a utopian world where we can all live with no risk of issues with animals, neither can we resolve conflicts by money and/or law alone. Many people or groups active in changing laws to prevent harm to animals don’t have to live with those specific animals, it isn’t a simple resolution to tell those that do deal with those animals to just live with it, we have to be pragmatic and we have to be open to multiple solutions – the problem is how to address so many elements that cause problems – economic, social, tradition, medicinal – real or otherwise, political – there are a lot of stumbling blocks… So Steve, how do we fix all that?! And how do we not lose faith?


Who is your conservation hero? Tell us in the comments!



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