Steve Irwin was best known as The Crocodile Hunter, which was
the name of the unconventional nature documentary series on
television he hosted, assisted by his American-born wife, Terri
Irwin. His larger-than-life persona and seemingly outrageous
antics (including the close handling of both common and rare
species of wildlife and, perhaps most famously, the capture of
live crocodiles and other reptiles on-screen) were key features
in the presentation, which provided a forum for educational
information about wildlife conservation and conflicts with
humans in various parts of the world. The program made the
Irwins into television personalities on several continents.
Steve Irwin was born in Essendon, a suburb of Melbourne, and moved with his parents as a child to Queensland. His parents, Bob and Lyn, ran the small Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, where Steve grew up around crocodiles and other reptiles. He became a crocodile trapper, removing crocodiles from near populated areas, performing the service for free with the quid pro quo that he kept them for the park. As a child, he had a negative encounter with a macaw, which throughout his life left him with a fear of parrots.
In 1991, he took over the running of the park, now renamed the "Australia Zoo", and in 1992 met (at the park) and married Terri. The footage, shot by John Stainton, of their crocodile-trapping honeymoon became the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter, which became wildly successful in America.
Under Steve's expansive leadership, the operations have grown to include the zoo, the television series, The Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, and International Crocodile Rescue. Improvements to his Australia Zoo include the animal Planet Crocoseum, the rainforest aviary, and Tiger Temple.
In 2001, Steve Irwin appeared in a cameo role in the Eddie Murphy film Dr. Dolittle 2. In 2002, his first feature film, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, was released. In general, reviews of this film were negative. However, in 2003, Irwin was reportedly in line to host a chat show on Australian network television.
The Irwins have two children: a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin (born 24 July 1998), and a son, Robert (Bob) Clarence Irwin (born 1 December 2003). Their dog, Sui, from which their daughter's middle name was derived, died in June 2004.
Major controversy arose during a public show on 2 January 2004, when Irwin carried his infant son, Bob, in one arm while feeding a chicken carcass to a crocodile with the other hand. The infant was close to the crocodile, and comparisons were made in the press with Michael Jackson's dangling of his son outside a German apartment window. In addition, child welfare groups, animal rights groups, and many of Irwin's television viewers criticized his actions as being irresponsible and tantamount to child abuse. Irwin claimed that any danger to his son was only a perceived danger and that he was in complete control of the situation, and consistently refused to apologize for his actions despite considerable public outcry both in Australia and abroad. His defenders pointed to his several decades of hands-on experience and direct interaction with crocodiles. Terri Irwin claimed that their child was in no more real danger than a child being taught to swim would be. No charges were filed (although the police did visit Irwin at his home and advised him not to repeat the incident).
Irwin went on to star in other animal Planet documentaries, including The Croc Files, The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, and New Breed Vets.
In June 2004, Irwin again was the subject of controversy when allegations were made that he came too close to and disturbed some wildlife (namely whales, seals and penguins) while filming a documentary in Antarctica. Interacting with Antarctic wildlife in a disapproved manner may be a breach of Australian federal and international laws. Subsequently, the matter was closed without charges being filed.
Animal Planet then released a Crocodile Hunter special called "Crocodiles & Controversy", which attempted to explain both the "Baby Bob Incident" and the Antarctica incident. This special argues that Irwin's son was never in danger of being eaten by the crocodile and that Irwin could not have endangered animals in Antarctica.
Animal Planet ended the The Crocodile Hunter with a series finale entitled "Steve's Last Adventure". The last Crocodile Hunter documentary went for three emotional hours with footage of Steve's across-the-world adventure, visiting locations like the Himalayas, the Yangtze River, Borneo, and the Kruger National Park.
In January 2006 as part of Australia Week celebrations in the USA, Steve appeared at the Pauley Pavilion, UCLA Los Angeles, California. During an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Steve announced that Discovery Kids will be developing a show for his daughter, Bindi Sue. The show, Jungle Girl, was tipped to be similar to The Wiggles movies, with songs that surround a story. A feature-length episode of Australian kids TV show The Wiggles entitled "Wiggly Safari" appears dedicated to Steve, and he features in it heavily with his wife and daughter. The show includes the song "Crocodile Hunter, Big Steve Irwin".
On Saturday June 24, 2006, one of the oldest turtles living in Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, died of heart failure. The turtle, Harriet, was 176 years old and was considered part of Irwin's family. Harriet was thought to have belonged to Charles Darwin.
Steve Irwin was active in politics and was a supporter of the conservative Liberal Party of Australia. In particular, he strongly supported the incumbent Prime Minister John Howard.
Steve Irwin's Death:
On September 4, 2006, shortly after 11:00 a.m. local time, Steve Irwin was killed in a marine accident while filming an underwater documentary in the Batt Reef off the Low Isles near Port Douglas, north of Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Irwin was shooting a segment for a series called “Ocean’s Deadliest” when he swam too close to one of the animals, which have a poisonous bard on their tails, his friend and colleague John Stainton said.
“He came on top of the stingray and the stingray’s barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart,” said Stainton, who was on board Irwin’s boat at the time.
Veteran marine wildlife documentary maker Ben Cropp, who has spent hundreds of hours filming on Batt Reef, says Irwin had come too close to a bull ray. Citing a colleague who saw footage of the attack, Cropp says Irwin had accidentally boxed the animal in, causing it to attack. "It stopped and twisted and threw up its tail with the spike, and it caught him in the chest," says Cropp. "It's a defensive thing. It's like being stabbed with a dirty dagger." Says Cropp: "It's a one-in-a-million thing. I have swum with many rays, and I have only had one do that to me."
The stingray attack was caught on video. Steve Irwin's manager said Tuesday that the footage shows Steve pulling a poisonous stingray barb from his chest before losing consciousness. The internationally famous "Crocodile Hunter" was dead within minutes. Police said the video of his death showed no evidence that the Crocodile Hunter had threatened or intimidated the stingray as he was filming scenes.
Crew members aboard the boat, Croc One, called emergency services in the nearest city, Cairns, and administered CPR as they rushed the boat to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter. Medical staff pronounced Steve Irwin dead when they arrived a short time later.
“If ever he was going to go, we always said it was going to be the ocean. On land, he was agile, quick-thinking, quick-moving, and the ocean puts another element there that you have no control over”, Mr. Stainton told reporters.
Flowers and tributes poured in at Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo on Tuesday 9/5, in Beerwah, Australia.
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