"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin will be celebrated at a public memorial service next week at the wildlife park his family owns, his wife announced yesterday. Fewer than 6,000 people will be able to attend, but negotiations were under way for a live TV broadcast.
Details of the service for the TV personality have been eagerly awaited since his death last week in a stingray attack on the Great Barrier Reef created an outpouring of grief in Australia and among fans around the world.
Irwin's family and closest friends held a private funeral on Saturday, telling stories around a camp fire on the grounds of Australia Zoo, the park in eastern Queensland state that was his base.
Irwin's father, Bob, said the family turned down the govern-ment's offer of a state funeral for Irwin, saying he would not have wanted it. But he said Irwin would have wanted a public service for his fans to celebrate his life.
Although larger venues for the public event had been suggested, Irwin's wife, Terri, said he would have wanted the service held at the 5,500-seat auditorium -- called the "Crocoseum" -- at Australia Zoo.
"I realize that the Crocoseum has a limited capacity ... but I cannot see how a memorial service would work in any other place other than the Crocoseum, which he built here at the zoo and of which he was so proud," she said in a statement.
"I would therefore ask that everyone please bear with me in this wish and help me to make this happen," she said.
Peter Lang, a spokesman for Australia Zoo, said negotiations were under way for a live TV broadcast of the event.
Terri Irwin, originally from Eugene, Oregon, yesterday thanked her husband's fans for their kindness and support following the death of her "soul mate."
Australian authorities have urged fans of 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.
Queensland state officials said up to 10 of the animals have been found dead in coastal waters since Irwin's death.
Two were found dead with their tails hacked off on Tuesday at Deception Bay, north of 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.
Irwin's wildlife colleagues said killing stingrays was against his conservationist teachings.
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