Wildlife Conservation with
The Crocodile Hunter
Crikey, Mates, It's Steve Irwin!
Steve Irwin was an Australian naturalist and television personality, zoologist and proponent of wildlife conservation. But we knew him best as the television personality, The Crocodile Hunter. Steve was born in Australia in 1962 and died much too soon, September 4, 2006 at the age of 44, in Queensland Australia, killed by a stingray during a diving expedition off the coast of Australia while filming his television show.
The Education of a Croc Hunter
Both of Steve’s parents were interested in wildlife conservation. His father, who started out as a plumber, became a herpetologist and a student of wild animals. His mother was a wildlife rehabilitator. In 1970, Steve’s father started his Beerwar Reptile Park on four acres of land. When it became successful, they renamed the park Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. This is where Steve became familiar at a young age with pythons and crocodiles, and developed his interest in wildlife conservation. The family home has always been at the park, at first in a caravan (an Aussie word for trailer), then in a modest ranch house that his father built.
Steve worked at the park for the rest of his life, maintaining the animals, performing for the crowds, and learning the business. After graduating from high school, Steve volunteered to become a “crocodile rescuer,” removing wild crocodiles from populated areas and moving them to the park. His rapport with wild animals and his skill impressed everyone. He enjoyed his life of risk, adventure and physical activity.
Whether he was wrestling a 12-foot croc with jaws that could crush a refrigerator, or handling a deadly stonefish to explain how it camouflages itself from predators, his fans admired his knowledge, his fearlessness, and his fondness for all wildlife. His motivation was always to conserve and preserve species for the future, and to educate people about them. Phillippe Cousteau, the son of Jacques Cousteau, said, “I’ve never seen such rapport between a sea creature and a human.”
Family Life with Steve Irwin
In 1992, Steve married the American Terri Raines, who first saw him doing crocodile shows at the Park. Their daughter Bindi was born in 1998 and named after Steve’s favorite pet, a saltwater crocodile. Their son Robert was born in 2003.
After their marriage, his parents turned the Park over to Steve and Terri. They renamed it Australia Zoo. Steve and his family remained living in the modest house his Dad built. The Irwins still occupy the original bungalow built on the grounds.
A Cult Hero
After his wildlife films began showing on Animal Planet on the Discovery Channel, the high-spirited, energetic naturalist, wildlife conservationist and croc-wrestler became a cult hero in the US. The United States took the Crocodile Hunter to heart. What carried him to popularity was his enthusiasm, his confidence and his charisma, as well as his sense of humor . His television shows succeeded because Steve on TV was the same as Steve in real life. In a time when most people are cautious and adverse to risk, Steve lived life his way, fearlessly.
Steve was one of those men who found the job he was born for. Some people called him an adrenaline junkie because he sought out danger. He often used the Aussie word “crikey”, which means wow or gee-whiz, to express surprise. Steve kept in shape with martial arts training. Although generally fearless, he admitted he had a fear of parrots, because he had been bitten many times by them. At one point, Steve said, “I would never blame an animal if it bit me, because I'm at fault, not them. I heal so quickly. If you cut my arm off I would grow a new one.”
The Australia Zoo
Steve renamed the family park the Australia Zoo, and expanded it to feature wildlife shows, zookeepers to chat with and heaps of drop-dead gorgeous animals getting up close and personal. It includes 83 acres, and 1000 animals, plus a wildlife hospital, a worldwide conservation program called Wildlife Warriors and a quarterly newsletter.
The zoo has many uniquely Australian animals and birds : birds like Laughing Kookaburra, Barking Owl, Black Kite, Peregrine Falcon, and the Wedge-Tailed Eagle. In the zoo are the crocs he was nicknamed for, both salt-water and fresh-water crocs. The zoo also has elephants and big cats. Other interesting animals at the zoo include cuddly Koalas, waddling Wombats, terrific Tasmanian Devils, pretty Possums, dynamic Dingoes, brilliant Blue Tongues and Shingleback Skinks, baby American Alligators and crazy Cockatoos! There are also elephants, mountain lions, snow leopards and reptiles at the Zoo.
The Zoo sees thousands of visitors every day, and employs a staff of about two hundred. Steve never talked about the business side of running a zoo, but he had an aptitude for it, too. The Australia Zoo was Steve’s vision of paradise.
Australia Zoo has become a thriving international tourist attraction promoted as "the home of TV's Crocodile Hunter". Two hundred staff wearing trademark Croc Hunter khaki shorts, shirts and bush boots man the entry booths, animal enclosures, ampitheater, 1,500-seat restaurant, and a souvenir shop packed with Croc Hunter merchandise.
Other Performances by Steve Irwin
As a young man, he was featured in an ad campaign as the Solo man for Solo soft drink. Steve's only starring feature film role was in The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, in 2002. He also had a small role in the film Dr. Dolittle 2. Then in 2006, he provided his voice for the 2006 animated film Happy Feet, as an elephant seal named Trev. The film was dedicated to Steve, who died during post-production
Wildlife Conservation Activities
Australia Zoo is known worldwide for its work in conservation. Steve and Terri Irwin took part in many charitable organizations, both large and small, from all over the world.
They also founded and support Wildlife Warriors Worldwide Ltd, a conservation effort which was established in 2002 as a way for caring people to support the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife, from the individual animal to an entire species. They were interested in preserving species like crocodile and reptiles, which many people dislike.
Steve also supported a worldwide ban on commercial whaling. And he did all he could to promote Australian tourism.
An Untimely Death
The death of Steve Irwin came by accident in the waters near Port Douglas while he was filming a TV episode for the new children’s show he was doing with his daughter, Bindi.
He swam over the top of a stingray that was buried in the sand, while the photographer blocked the ray’s path. The ray stopped, probably felt threatened, twisted its tail and threw up a barb that hit Steve in the chest. The stingray is ordinarily not fatal, but this barb, in an unlucky strike, penetrated directly into Steve’s heart. It is said that he pulled the barb from his chest, and then probably died within seconds afterward. The moment was caught on film, but his wife Terri said she did not watch the film before she destroyed it. Steve died doing what he loved best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. He would have said, "Crocs Rule!"
The Spirit of Steve Irwin Survives
Steve's daughter Bindi is a delightful extrovert, energetic like her dad, charming and well-spoken. She also has a strong empathy for the family business. She enjoys waking up to the roar of the tigers, working with Zoo animals, and appearing on Animal Planet. With a natural aptitude as a performer, she began hosting her own television show at the age of eight. She intends to continue her father’s work in wildlife conservation.
As Steve used to say, “Crikey, mates, these are great adventures.” I hope that your travels are wonderful and your adventures many.
I hope life brings you much success.
I wish you a very happy day.
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