If you're over 35 - you might recall the original Crocodile Hunter, Marlon Perkins. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom debuted in 1963 and ran for 27 years.
Johnny Carson used to poke fun at Marlon. I remember, "While Jim wrestles the elusive wild boar, I'll prepare beans back at the camp." My generation spent countless hours watching Marlon fire nets connected to rockets over flocks of birds. We watched Marlon race up to Zebras in a '66 Range Rover and tag it's ear at 30 miles per hour. He always showed us what was under the rock.
Marlon was doing this when no-one else was. There was no Discovery channel. There was no Animal Planet. All Marlon had was a little syndicated TV show that was provided free to TV stations, if they ran it intact - with the commercials for Mutual of Omaha. Remember, "The Koala bear protects it's young. You should do the same, with Mutual of Omaha!"
Steve Irwin was a dynamic personality. Marlon wasn't. His voice was monotone. He wasn't particularly handsome - but was certainly dapper. What happened to Irwin was sad, but I believe the Steve Irwin was saw on TV was a performance FOR television. Irwin certainly KNEW when the cameras were on - and "played to them." This isn't bad. This just wasn't Marlon Perkins. He was the same on & off camera. I know because I witnessed it first hand.
Marlon Perkins was the director of the St. Louis Zoo for the run of Wild Kingdom. One day (mid 60's) my family was visiting the zoo. While watching the alligators from a distance, a Cushman 3 wheel car pulls up. Marlin Perkins is behind the wheel. He parks, gets out, scales a small fence, climbs a small wall, wades into waste deep water, and literally bare-hand grabs a 5 foot alligator from the water. He puts it under one arm and ties it's snout with string. He then places the alligator into the back of the Cushman and drives away.
This was my only personal encounter with the host of Wild Kingdom. There were no cameras, make up or lights. This was a real Crocodile hunter - and he was doing it 40 years before Steve Irwin.