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Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

Updated on October 9, 2010

Steve Irwin is a celebrated hero in his home country Australia, and in many other countries as well. He made a name for himself as the quirky, high energy, eco warrior yelling ‘Crikey’ a lot. His nickname was ‘The Crocodile Hunter’. He was so excited about wildlife conservation in general and crocodiles especially, that he inspired many people to help conserving wildlife all over the planet. He was a great advocate of protecting endangered animals. Due to an unfortunate accident he died an early crocodile hunter death in 2006, only 44 years old. In this article I will discuss his life, his passions, his death, and his many achievements.

His first years

Stephen Robert Irwin was born on the 2nd of February 1962 in near Melbourne in Australia. His parents were Bob en Lyn Irwin. In 1970 they moved up to Beerwah in Queensland, where his father opened up a wildlife park, the Queensland Reptile and Fauna park. His father Bob was a herpetologist (a reptile expert).  His mother opened up a small hospital for wildlife rehabilitation, to nurse sick and wounded animals back to health. He had two younger sisters, Joy and Mandy. Steve Irwin grew up, surrounded by animals, and his favourite species, crocodiles. He was always hanging around the park, helping out with feeding the animals, and at age nine he was allowed to handle the crocodiles, under strict supervision. After graduating from high school he became a crocodile trapper up in Northern Queensland. He would help catch crocs in populated areas and take them to his father’s park.

Buy Terri's book 'Steve & Me'

Australia Zoo

In 1992 Irwin took over his parents park, renaming it Australia Zoo. This was a big year for him, as it was also the year he married Terri Raines, a cat specialist from the US, with whom he had a daughter, Bindi Sue (July 24, 1998), and a son, Robert Clarence (December 1,2003. And he appeared on a tv-special on reptiles for the first time. To Steve, his kids and his family was everything. He took them to the park and introduced them to all the animals at a young age.

With Terri’s help he set out to expand Australia Zoo. They set up the Steve Irwin Foundation (now the Wildlife Warriors) to raise awareness and money for wildlife conservation programs all over the world. Steve was associated with several wildlife conservation government campaigns. Everything he got paid for those, he put into his foundation. Although there was some controversy about his big salary being paid by the taxpayers.

After the Crocodile Hunter death Terri wrote a book about their lives together and their unconditional love. The book is very well written. It is a story of great love, but also of an exciting live, travelling the world and working with many animals, and many enormous achievements in wildlife conservation. It is a very moving story and brought tears to my eyes several times.

Steve Irwin movies and tv-shows

After being on the reptile show in 1992, Steve and Terri they made their honeymoon trip catching crocs, into the first episode of ‘The Crocodile Hunter’. But this did not actually air in Australia until 1996. It was a hit show, and the year after it aired in the US, as well as several other countries. On the show Steve talks a lot about crocodiles, and you see him in action catching them. But other creatures fascinate him too, and he travels the world to show us all of nature’s gifts, and to talk about the conservation of wildlife. In 1998 he filmed ‘The Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World’ with producer and director Mark Strickson. But when you see Irwin handling these snakes he makes it look easy. By then his show ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ was on tv in over 137 countries, and he had over 500 million viewers. Everyone knew this wildly enthusiastic, crazy Australian, taunting destiny by handling all these dangerous animals.

The Crocodile Hunter series ended with a grand finale, called Steve’s Last Adventure. It was a documentary on Steve and his work all over the wolrd that lasted three hours. After that he made numerous other shows for Animal Planet, like ‘The Croc Files’, ‘The Crocodile Hunter Diairies’ and ‘New Breed Vets’. After appearing on Steve’s shows a couple of times, in 2006 his daugher Bindi started starring in her own show, ‘Jungle Girl’ to be aired on Discovery Kids. The American Travel Channel became interested in the Steve hype as well, and started following the Irwin family around to make a series of specials on their travels all over the world. All his tv-shows are now available on many Steve Irwin dvds.

He was also involved in several movies and lots of nature documentaries. In 2001 he had a little cameo in Dr. Dolittle 2. In 2002 he made a film where he was in the lead role. It was called ‘The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course’. Steve plays himself, and he suspects there are two poachers roaming the area, but while he is trying to capture them, they turn out to be CIA agents. This film won a Best Family Feature Film award for comedy at the Young Artists Awards. Also released in 2002, the band the Wiggles recorded a set of songs about Steve Irwin and his wildlife work, and filmed video clips in Australia Zoo, making it into the movie ‘Wiggle Safari’.

The last movie he starred in was ‘Happy Feet’ in 2006. Steve did the voice of an elephant seal named Trev, for the Disney animation Happy Feet. He died while they were still working on the production and the film was dedicated to him.

Awards and honours

Irwin earned several prizes and honouring awards in his life. In 1997 he discovered a new turtle species. He named it the Irwin’s turtle (in latin Elseya Irwini). In 2001 he received the Centenary Medal for his service to global conservation and Australian tourism. In 2004 he got nominated for Australian of the year, but lost to a cricket player. He did get an award for being the Tourism Export of the Year in 2004. And when he died, the University of Queensland had been about to make him an adjunct professor at their Biology department, even though Steve never had a university education himself. In 2007 they named him adjunct professor anyway. Shortly after his death the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named one of their ships MV Steve Irwin, because he had been in talks with about joining them on an expedition to Antarctica. In 2009 another newly discovered Australian species of a snail was named after him, the Crikey Steveirwini.

Wildlife conservation education

Irwin thought the best way to make people aware of the necessity of wildlife conservation was to go and get the message out there, screaming it as loud as possible. So his starring in tv-shows and movies was all about this. He was so enthusiastic about wildlife and every single animal he could find, and usually that energy and enthusiasm was conveyed to his viewers and fans. He thought conservation was the most important thing in his life, and everything he did was geared towards that. He was the one who came up with the term of ‘Wildlife Warrior’, and since then it is a well-known phrase, and also the name of his conservation foundation. With this foundation he bought several pieces of land in Australia, Fiji and the US, and he worked on maintaining the ‘wildness’ of these stretches of land, and protecting the endangered animals in them.

In his shows he was always encouraging people to respect wildlife, and to help out with the conservation of it. He actively promoted eco-tourism and wildlife conservation education. And even after his death, this message is still very much alive. In the form of his daughter picking up where he left off, and in the form of his Australia Zoo and the Wildlife Warriors charity foundation.

The Crocodile Hunter death

Steve Irwin died while doing what he loved best. Out in the wild and filming a new documentary. The tragic accident happened on the 4th of September 2006, when he was only 44 years old. He was filming a sea documentary called ‘The Ocean’s Deadliest’ in the Batt Reef in the far north of Queensland. But because of bad weather conditions he couldn’t film out on the reef, so he was filming in shallow water instead. The stingray he was filming pierced his heart with his spine. He died instantly, due to a combination of the stab to heart (cardiac arrest) and the toxins in the stingray’s spine. The Ocean’s Deadliest was still released in 2007, but without any footage of the incident or reference to it.

When the news of his death spread, Australia went into mourning. Tributes, letters and condolence cards were sent to Australia Zoo and his family from all over the world. And the Australia Zoo was covered in flowers, drawings, letters, stuffed animals, and candles. His foundation received a lot of donations.


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