Australia's original 'Crocodile Hunter' dies in car crash

Australia's original TV crocodile hunter Malcolm Douglas, whose hit Outback documentaries foreshadowed late global star Steve Irwin, has died in a car crash, reports said Thursday.

"Barefoot bushman" Douglas, 69, who overcame cancer and numerous filmed brushes with deadly wildlife, ploughed into a tree in a large animal sanctuary he established in remote Western Australia.

Douglas's exploits were watched by millions of Australians, though he was overshadowed in recent years by Steve Irwin, star of the "Crocodile Hunter" adventure series who died in a freak stingray accident in 2006.

"I'm not fake and I don't pre-plan takes, it's all real," Douglas said in 2009. "There's no helicopter on standby if something goes wrong. In places like the Kimberley one mistake and you're dead."

Douglas, who trekked across Australia's harsh hinterland filming his encounters with poisonous snakes and ferocious reptiles, shot to fame when his first documentary, "Across The Top", screened in 1976.

"I was filming Aboriginal people killing kangaroos and drinking the blood because there wasn't any water," he said. "No one had seen anything like it and they loved it."

Douglas opened two wildlife reserves in northern Western Australia and was given just 18 months to live in 2004, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

State premier Colin Barnett led tributes to the conservationist, instantly recognisable by his bushy beard and distinctive, wide-brimmed Akubra hat, who was also a precursor to the hit "Crocodile Dundee" films starring Paul Hogan.

"A true adventurer, a true character," Barnett said. "He didn't mince his words, he said what he thought and I think he had a great deal of affection in the hearts and minds of people of this country."

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