Don't Hurt Rays after Irwin Death, Officials Say
SYDNEY Australian authorities have urged fans of Steve Irwin not to attack stingrays after several rays were found dead since the TV naturalist was killed in a rare fatal attack by one of the normally placid animals.
Irwin, whose "Crocodile Hunter" documentaries were watched by more than 200 million people, was killed eight days ago when the serrated barb from a stingray's tail pierced his heart.
Queensland state officials said up to 10 of the animals have since been found dead in coastal waters.
Two were found dead with their tails hacked off on Tuesday at Deception Bay, north of the Queensland capital Brisbane.
Up to six rays had also been found dead recently further north at Hervey Bay said Wayne Sumpton, a senior biologist in Queensland's Fisheries Department.
"We do not know if these incidents are motivated by Steve Irwin's death. At the moment that is just speculation," he said.
"We do find dead stingrays with their tails cut off from time to time. People usually do it if they are worried about getting stung by a stingray, or they just do it maliciously, but it is pretty rare," Sumpton said.
Irwin's wildlife colleagues said killing stingrays was against his conservationist teachings.
"We just want to make it very clear that we will not accept and not stand for anyone who's taken a form of retribution. That's the last thing Steve would want," said Michael Hornby, executive director of Irwin's Wildlife Warriors Worldwide.
The tails of stingrays carry toxic barbs that can measure up to 20 cm.
Stings from from their tails are not uncommon, although most generally suffer painful but non-lethal wounds in their feet or lower legs. Irwin's case was thought to be only the third recorded fatal stingray attack in Australia.
News of his death sparked a remarkable outpouring of grief from Australia and around the world.
Irwin's family and closest friends held a private funeral around a campfire at his Australia Zoo at the weekend, while a public memorial service is being planned for next Wednesday.