Thousands at Irwin memorial event

More than 5,000 people have attended a memorial service for the Australian television naturalist, Steve Irwin, who was killed two weeks ago.

The service, at Mr Irwin’s Crocoseum stadium in Queensland, was broadcast by three of Australia’s TV networks.

The tributes were led by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said Mr Irwin had taught people to love and respect all creatures, great and small.

Mr Irwin died after being spiked in the chest by the barb of a stingray.

Mr Howard said: “Steve Irwin touched the hearts of Australians and touched the hearts of millions around the world in a very special way.

“He did that because he had that quality of being genuine and being authentic, of being unconditional of having a great zest for life.

“And throughout his all too short life, he demonstrated a love for the two things that ought to matter more to all of us than anything else – his love of his family and his love of his country.

“He brought to Australians and the world an understanding of nature. He taught our children in particular to love and respect all creatures, great and small.

“In everything he did he was direct, he was genuine and oh so Australian – and that is what we loved so much about him.”

Hollywood actors Russell Crowe and Cameron Diaz also paid tribute to the naturalist, who was famous for his stunts with crocodiles and other dangerous reptiles.