Wildlife enthusiast Steve Irwin would have celebrated his 57th birthday on Friday, had his life not tragically been cut short in 2006, but the special occasion was marred as animal rights group PETA took aim at the Aussie icon’s legacy.
To mark Irwin’s birthday, Google created a special ‘Google Doodle’ – which replaced the standard Google logo on the search engine’s home page – showing a series of cartoon images depicting the wildlife warrior’s life.
However PETA sparked outrage, claiming Irwin was killed because he was “harassing a ray” and slammed the doodle for sending a “dangerous message”.
#SteveIrwin was killed while harassing a ray; he dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile & wrestled wild animals who were minding their own business. Today’s #GoogleDoodle sends a dangerous, fawning message. Wild animals are entitled to be left alone in their natural habitats. https://t.co/9JfJiBhGLw
— PETA (@peta) February 22, 2019
PETA continued: “Steve Irwin’s actions were not on target with his supposed message of protecting wildlife. A real wildlife expert & someone who respects animals for the individuals they are leaves them to their own business in their natural homes.
“It is harassment to drag exotic animals, including babies taken from their mothers, around from TV talk shows to conferences & force them to perform as Steve Irwin did. Animals deserve to live as they want to, not as humans demand.”
The controversial statement triggered huge debate online, with many people expressing outrage over the organisation’s “slandering” comments.
One person wrote: “Thanks for bringing people closer together in our mutual hate of you! Not sure that’s what you intended but the result is very amusing!”
Another said: “Yea….no. His methods may not have been ideal but his enthusiasm for animals and for their protection was incredibly transparent. He taught a lot of people about nature and the environment. ‘Harassing a ray’? Unless the Irwin family has shown you the footage, complete speculation.”
While a third wrote: “On behalf of the entirety of Australia, I officially declare war against the organisation of PETA for slandering the name of a beloved Australian icon.”
However, others agreed, as one person commented: “I agree, peta. Everyone acts like he is such a wildlife protector when all he did was rope up and jump on wild animals all for the spotlight. He ‘saved’ crocs by bringing them to his ‘zoo’ which charged money to see them. I never liked the guy. Sorry everyone is so awful to u.[sic]”
Steve’s children Robert, 15, and Bindi, 20, marked the occasion with a series of sweet tributes on social media. Aspiring wildlife photographer Robert shared an adorable photo of his dad holding him as a young baby, wearing an Australia Zoo romper.
Alongside the image, he wrote: “I want to thank you all for your kind birthday wishes for Dad. It warms my heart to see so many people celebrating his life and the difference he made. Together we’ll keep his legacy alive forever.”
While Bindi, who shared two sweet childhood snaps in tribute, described her father as “the greatest wildlife warrior”, and said: “Thank you for always being my guiding light.”
Steve – commonly known as The Crocodile Hunter – was killed in 2006 in the now infamous incident at Batt Reef, near Port Douglas, Queensland, when he was pierced through the heart by a sting ray barb while filming for TV series Ocean’s Deadliest.