A few years back, a rumour would start going around the Internets every so often that Steve Irwin had, honestly for sure really this time, gotten himself killed doing the things that Steve-o does. The rumours were always bunk. So my first response was to disbelieve the report, which I first saw on a reptile mailing list. But this time it’s true: Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was killed this morning by a freak accident with a stingray.

No matter how careful you are, no matter how outside the risk is, it’s never the animal’s fault. Irwin would be the first to say so.

From the Guardian’s story, I learn a new word: “larrikin” — loosely, a maverick or wild-spirited person — which is how Australian Prime Minister John Howard described Irwin. He was also, as the tributes have noted, one of Australia’s biggest ambassadors, though I’m given to understand that many were just a mite bit embarrassed by him and his “fair-dinkum” schtick. Which, apparently, wasn’t a schtick at all.

Never mind Australia: he was the best ambassador that the unloved animals of the world — my kind of animals — ever had.

He was a crazy bastidge, and we need more like him.