The following is a press release from Discovery Communications (owner of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet) on the tragic death of Australian television host and conservationist Steve Irwin:

Discovery Communications is deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. 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 Animal Planet's air since October 1996 and was essential in building Animal Planet into a global brand.

Steve was killed during a filming expedition for Animal Planet on the Great Barrier Reef. While we are still collecting specific details, it appears that this was a rare accident in which Steve swam over a stingray and was stung by its barb in his chest. A doctor on board Croc One, Steve's research vessel, was unable to resuscitate Steve, and by the time a rescue helicopter reached him, he had died.

DCI Founder and Chairman, John Hendricks said, "Steve was a larger than life force. 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 CEO and President Judith McHale said, "I don't think we will ever get over the loss of Steve Irwin, a human being of enormous feeling and irrepressible enthusiasm and dedication to everything he touched."

Discovery Networks, U.S. President Billy Campbell said, "The sense of loss we feel about Steve is shared by people around the world, evident by the hundreds of heartfelt condolences that have already flooded into Steve's fan site on"

Discovery Networks International President Dawn McCall, said, "Rarely has the world embraced an animal enthusiast and conservationist as they did Steve Irwin. Steve's passion for animals and leadership in conservation awareness leaves a powerful and lasting legacy across the globe." Outside the United States, Animal Planet is available in 160 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East with programming customized in 24 languages.

Animal Planet in the United States will air special tribute programming beginning tonight at 6 p.m. ET/PT. The programming will highlight Steve's background, including his early days as the Croc Hunter, and his passion for wildlife and his family. On Sunday, September 10, Animal Planet U.S. plans to air an all-day marathon tribute featuring the Best of the Croc Hunter. Animal Planet International in markets around the world will provide the same programming.

To honor Steve and the enormous contribution he made to the world and to our company, DCI will rename the garden space in front of Discovery's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, the "Steve Irwin Memorial Garden."

DCI is planning to create the Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter Fund, which it expects to affectionately call "The Crikey Fund." The Fund will be established to honor Steve's passion and exuberance for conservation and the animal kingdom and is expected to provide a way for people from across the globe to make contributions in Steve's honor to support wildlife protection, education and conservation. The Fund will provide support to Steve's Australia Zoo in Beewah, Australia, as well as educational support for his children, Bindi and Bob Irwin.

Steve Irwin was the world's best-known wildlife crusader. As the Crocodile Hunter, Steve became a household name, and his television adventures have been seen around the globe. In 2002, he starred in the feature film, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course and appeared on numerous popular television talk shows. Throughout his high international profile, Steve's commitment to wildlife always remained paramount.

His passion to protect the world's most endangered and threatened species could be traced back to his parents, conservationists and animal lovers Bob and Lyn Irwin, the founders of Australia Zoo. As a young boy, Steve helped Bob rescue and relocate crocodiles in the rivers of North Queensland. The father- and-son team was proud to say that over 100 crocodiles living at Australia Zoo were either caught by them or bred and raised in the zoo.

In his 20s, Steve volunteered his services to the Queensland government's rogue crocodile relocation program, living alone for years in the mosquito- infested creeks, rivers and mangroves of North Queensland.

In 1992, Steve and his friend, television producer John Stainton, created a distinctive new style of wildlife documentary. That one-hour program, The Crocodile Hunter, featured Steve, his new wife, American wildlife caretaker Terri Raines, and the animals of Far North Queensland. Steve's boisterous charm, unconventional style and extraordinary daring, combined with Terri's wit and composure in dangerous situations and their amazingly close encounters with such potentially deadly creatures as crocodiles, venomous snakes and spiders, made The Crocodile Hunter a worldwide hit.

In addition to The Crocodile Hunter series, Steve and Terri filmed 53 episodes of the Emmy Award-nominated Croc Files, The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, a behind-the-scenes look at Steve's daily life at Australia Zoo, and New Breed Vets, a series highlighting the cutting-edge veterinarian science.

As testimony to their commitment to conservation and the environment, Steve and Terri purchased over 60,000 acres of wildlife-sensitive land and worked the rehabilitation and breeding of some of the world's most endangered animals. At Australia Zoo, they established a breeding program to help such endangered species as the southern cassowary, koala, giant land tortoise, Fijian crested iguana and Komodo dragon, to name just a few. The zoo, a dedicated conservation area covering over 250 acres, earned Australia's most prestigious tourism award as "Major Tourist Attraction" for 2003. Steve was recently awarded the title "2004 Queensland Australian of the Year."