Animal Planet’s Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin died after being stung by a sting ray while diving on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Monday.
Irwin, 44, was diving with a camera crew in pre-production for an Animal Planet series centered on his eight-year-old daughter, Bindi.
Rough seas had actually prompted him to shelve plans to film for another series, The Ocean’s Deadliest Predators. Animal Planet parent Discovery said that Irwin was swimming over the ray when it stung him in the chest, penetrating his heart.
Irwin’s series, The Crocodile Hunter, was one of Animal Planet’s earliest shows and his "extreme naturalist" approach to the wildlife education gave the fledling network wide recognition.
He was far more than a TV host, however, owning a zoo in Australia and passionately pushing conservation efforts in Australia and around the world. He worked on a number of other projects for Animal Planet and other networks owned by Discovery Networks.
He is survived by his wife, Teri, and children Bindi and Bob.
"Our entire company is deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter," Discovery Channel said in a statement. "Steve was beloved by millions of fans and animal lovers around the world and was one of our planet's most passionate conservationists. He has graced our air since October 1996 and was essential in building Animal Planet into a global brand."
"Steve was a larger than life force," DCI Founder and Chairman John Hendricks said. "He brought joy and learning about the natural world to millions and millions of people across the globe. He was a true friend to all of us at Discovery Communications. We extend our thoughts and prayers to Terri, Bindi and Bob Irwin as well as to the incredible staff and many friends Steve leaves behind."
DCI said it will rename the garden in front of its headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., the "Steve Irwin Memorial Sensory Garden," and will create a fund, the "The Crikey Fund," after his trademark phrase, to support wildlife education and conservation.