The Showbiz of Conservation: PETA, Google and Steve Irwin

The world of conservation has thrown up various voices of tenacity.  There was Aldo Leopold, a vital figure behind establishing the first wilderness area of the United States when he convinced the Forest Service to protect some five hundred thousand acres of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest.  There was Robert Marshall, the founder of The Wilderness Society.  There was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), a solidly aimed blow at the use of DDT and its environmental effects.

Then there are the savvy showmen, the exploiters few short of a scruple, and manipulators keen on lining pockets.  The animal kingdom, for such types, is entertainment, much in the way that the automobile world is there for a figure such as Jeremy Clarkson.  Awareness of the existence of animals – their importance, their relevance – is drummed up by means of display and provocation.  The more dangerous, in a sense, the better, for here, human kind can be shown to be jousting with crocodile, sting ray and lion.  Humankind can return to savage roots, confronting other species in gladiatorial encounters with film crew and an extensive promotion strategy.  This is bullfighting, with a conservationist twist.

Such a figure was Steve Irwin, who made his way from Australia to the US, assisted by the solid contacts of his American wife Terri Raines, to build a name in the animal show business.  He became – and here the language is instructive – the self-styled Crocodile Hunter,…

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