Published January 25, 2017
This is a transcript from "On the Record," September 5, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: The "Crocodile Hunter," Steve Irwin, died the same way he lived most of his life, on camera. Irwin was stabbed through the heart by a poisonous stingray barb. He pulled the barb from his own chest but died a short time later, and the whole shocking incident was caught on tape because Irwin was filming a documentary at the time of the freak attack.
Director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo Jack Hanna joins us from Big Fork, Montana. Nice to see you, Jack.
JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS, COLUMBUS ZOO: Nice to see you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Jack, I guess the best way to describe it is almost a freak accident, isn't it.
HANNA: Yes, it really is. You know, that's what Steve brought the animal world to us in such a close way, that's why he was so much different than myself. And you know, you never know about animals. They're unpredictable. Some people say they are, but they're unpredictable and you just study them the best you can, and you hope you know everything about them. And Steve just — it was a freak accident. I mean, it's like I told somebody the other day, I said, it's like me getting killed by a poodle, you know? It's just unheard of. And I think that's what the major shock is.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, when we think of animals, we always think of Jack Hanna, Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin. Did you know Steve?
HANNA: Yes, we did a one-hour special on Steve about seven years ago, and I was just impressed with how nice he was to all his staff, how knowledgeable he was. And the guy woke up being just as excited as he is when he goes to bed. Some people put on for TV, and that's how they are and then they leave TV, and they're somebody else. And you and I both know that. But Steve was just an incredible person from the standpoint of how excitable he was and how enthusiastic he was and what he believed in.
And like, today, I did these interviews all day. Some people agreed and disagreed with how he filmed animals, but in the end, you know, it'll show you that he educated millions of people, brought together young people that really got an interest in wildlife because of what he did. And that's exciting.
I just hope that we don't have some people — Steve Irwin wannabes — that are guys that are out there just for the ratings and for the TV, for the excitement, that kind of thing, and don't have the passion for conservation that Steve did. That's what we don't need, is someone getting hurt or hurting an animal.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I should add for the viewers who don't know you off camera that with you, it's the same thing, Jack. The excitement you show on camera, I must admit, that's all I see from you off camera about all these animals.
Anyway, is your work dangerous?
HANNA: Yes, you know. And as Steve said and Jeff said, when we're in a dangerous situation we have really put ourselves there. You have to have respect for animals. And if I get hurt, 99 percent of the time, it's my fault. We were in Africa once filming some lions — about a herd — a pride of about 10 of them. And there were three of us in the truck, and all of a sudden, the truck didn't work. And there were obviously no weapons where we were because you're not allowed to carry them when you're filming. And then the radio broke, and then all the sudden, there were 12 or 14 of them in a pride, and it's 11:00 o'clock at night, and they're all just kind of huddled up against the Jeep. And you know, I said, oh, boy here we go. But you know, that's the kind of situation.
As Jeff was saying earlier, and I was saying earlier today, is the thing that's happen to me are people, the airplanes, the hang glider pilot that passed away and crashed right after I left there two weeks later, the Bush pilot that died six weeks after I left one time. Another helicopter pilot. So you put yourselves in situations trying to film these animals, and you hope that everything you're doing is the best, and sometimes it's not and you might have a freak accident.
But as I get older here, and I think I'm the oldest of all of them, you know, you're not invincible. There's no doubt about that. And I think the things that have really come to light here, especially when you're an older person, and you know, you want to be around to see your kids and grandkids — that's what my heart goes out to his family because Terry is a great person, an animal person herself, and it's just tragic to see this all end.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is what happened to Steve Irwin — is that going to change any way you do your work?
HANNA: No, not really. I don't do my work like Steve and even like Jeff does. You know, I'm mainly more of a stand-offish-type person when I film. And you know, these guys know what they're doing, and that's what they have to do. You know, they're professionals at it, and they have to know that. I'm not comfortable in those situations, so I try and film my situations where I'm comfortable, and I hope I don't put myself in that situation, you know. Again, you know, you want to be around to see your family and not try not put myself in that situation.
But they're very good at it. What happened to Steve was a freak accident. That's all. I mean, you could line up 50 animals and I'd pick that one to be the last one to ever happen to him.
VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed, very sad, Steve Irwin dying. Jack, it's always fun to see you, and I always love it when you bring your animals to our studios. Nice to see you, Jack.
HANNA: I'll be back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, good!
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