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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Irwin fans 'in revenge attacks'
A stingray in a Sydney aquarium
Stingrays have been found dead on two Queensland beaches
Dead stingrays with their tails cut off have been found in Australia, sparking concern that fans of naturalist Steve Irwin may be avenging his death.

Mr Irwin, a TV personality known as the "Crocodile Hunter", was killed while diving in Queensland when a stingray's barb stabbed him in the chest.

Since then, 10 stingrays have been found mutilated on Queensland beaches.

Government officials said they were investigating the deaths and there could be prosecutions.

Two stingrays were found at a beach north of Brisbane with their tails cut off, while eight were found on another beach on Monday, The Australian reported.

Wayne Sumpton of the state fisheries department said it was not clear if the incidents were connected to Mr Irwin's death.

He said fishermen who inadvertently caught stingrays sometimes cut off their tails to avoid being stung, but such a practice was uncommon.

'Protect wildlife'

Wildlife presenter Steve Irwin
Mr Irwin was well-known for his work with Australian wildlife

Michael Hornby, a friend of the late naturalist and executive director of Mr Irwin's Wildlife Warrior fund, condemned any revenge killings.

"We just want to make it very clear that we will not accept and not stand for anyone who's taken a form of retribution. That's the last thing Steve would want," he said.

"I hope everyone understands we have to protect wildlife now more than ever. This is what Steve was all about."

Stingrays are normally placid, but when they feel under threat, a sharp, poisonous spine in their tail flicks up.

A public memorial service for Mr Irwin will be held next week.

Tributes being paid to Steve Irwin

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