Who Was Steve Irwin?
Stephen Robert Irwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006), nicknamed “The Crocodile Hunter” was an Australian zookeeper, conservationist, and television personality. Irwin achieved worldwide fame from the television series The Crocodile Hunter (1996–2007), an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series which he co-hosted with his wife Terri; the couple also hosted the series, Croc Files (1999–2001), The Crocodile Hunter Diaries (2002–2006), and New Breed Vets (2005). They also owned and operated Australia Zoo, founded by Irwin’s parents in Beerwah, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) north of the Queensland state capital city of Brisbane.
Irwin died at 44, after being pierced in the heart by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary film titled Ocean’s Deadliest.
Famed conservationist and television show host Steve Irwin was born on February 22, 1962, in Essendon, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Part wildlife expert and part entertainer, Irwin became world famous for his TV series The Crocodile Hunter, among other nature programs. While he had no scientific degree, he grew up studying and caring for animals at his parents’ wildlife park, which is now known as the Australia Zoo. He first learned how to catch and handle his beloved crocodiles from his father and once received a python as a birthday present.
Crocodile Hunter Premieres
Irwin met American-born Terri Raines, who in was in Australia on vacation, in 1991. The couple later married and spent part of their honeymoon filming crocodiles. This footage became part of their 1992 Australian TV show The Crocodile Hunter. Four years later, the series was picked up by the American cable network Animal Planet. At the peak of its popularity, the show aired in more than 200 countries.
Audiences were often spellbound by Irwin’s dangerous encounters with animals on the series. He thought nothing of tangling with deadly snakes, spiders, lizards, and, of course, crocodiles. In addition to his hair-raising adventures, Irwin considered himself a wildlife educator, sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for animals with his viewers.
Always in his trademark khaki shirt and shorts, Irwin became a well-known figure in popular culture. He even had his own catchphrase—”Crikey!”—an Australian expression of surprise or excitement. There have been countless parodies and spoofs of the famed adventurer—even The Simpsons and South Park featured send-ups of Irwin. He wasn’t afraid to poke fun at his image as an energetic naturalist and showman. Irwin appeared as himself in the 2001 film Dr. Dolittle 2 with Eddie Murphy. The following year, Irwin and his wife starred in their own film, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.
Marriage and family
In 1991, Irwin met Terri Raines, an American naturalist from Eugene, Oregon, who was visiting wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Australia and had decided to visit the zoo. According to the couple, it was love at first sight. Terri said at the time, “I thought there was no one like this anywhere in the world. He sounded like an environmental Tarzan, a larger-than-life superhero guy.” They were engaged four months later and were married in Eugene on 4 June 1992. Together they had two children: a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin (born 24 July 1998), and a son, Robert Clarence “Bob” (named after Irwin’s father) Irwin (born 1 December 2003). Bindi Sue is jointly named after two of Steve Irwin’s favourite animals: Bindi, a saltwater crocodile, and Sui, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who died on 23 June 2004. Irwin was as enthusiastic about his family as he was about his work. He once described his daughter Bindi as “the reason [he] was put on the Earth.” His wife once said, “The only thing that could ever keep him away from the animals he loves are the people he loves even more.” Although the Irwins were happily married, they did not wear wedding rings; they believed that in their line of work, wearing jewellery could pose a hazard to them and/or the animals.
On September 4, 2006, Irwin was filming a new program off the coast of Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia. Snorkeling near a stingray, he was pierced in the chest by its barb, which hit his heart. Irwin died of cardiac arrest shortly after being stung.
Stunned by the news of his sudden death, people around the world mourned his passing. Many left flowers and notes at the Australia Zoo, which he and his wife ran, taking over for his parents. Others posted messages expressing their grief on the Web. Wildlife experts, such as Jack Hanna, noted that Irwin was a great conservationist.
Steve Irwin continues to be remembered today for his many contributions to the field of wildlife education and conservation, including running an organization to rescue and protect crocodiles and supporting numerous other animal charities. November 15 has been designated Steve Irwin Day, an international tribute held annually in recognition of his life and work.
Irwin was a passionate conservationist and believed in promoting environmentalism by sharing his excitement about the natural world rather than preaching to people. He was concerned with conservation of endangered animals and land clearing leading to loss of habitat. He considered conservation to be the most important part of his work: “I consider myself a wildlife warrior. My mission is to save the world’s endangered species.” Irwin bought “large tracts of land” in Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the United States, which he described as “like national parks” and stressed the importance of people realising that they could each make a difference.
Irwin founded the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, which became an independent charity and was later renamed “Wildlife Warriors Worldwide”. He also helped found International Crocodile Rescue, the Lyn Irwin Memorial Fund (named in memory of his mother, who died in an automobile crash in 2000), and the Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility.
Irwin urged people to take part in considerate tourism and not support illegal poaching through the purchase of items such as turtle shells or shark-fin soup.
Sir David Attenborough was an inspiration to Irwin, according to his widow. When presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Attenborough after Irwin’s death at the British National Television Awards on 31 October 2006, Terri Irwin said, “If there’s one person who directly inspired my husband it’s the person being honoured tonight…. [Steve’s] real, true love was conservation – and the influence of tonight’s recipient in preserving the natural world has been immense.” Attenborough reciprocated by praising Irwin for introducing many to the natural world, saying, “He taught them how wonderful and exciting it was, he was a born communicator.”
Irwin, after his death, was described by Mark Townend, CEO of RSPCA Queensland, as a “modern-day Noah.” British naturalist David Bellamy lauded his skills as a natural historian and media performer. Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki paid tribute to Irwin, noting that “[h]umanity will not protect that which we fear or do not understand. Steve Irwin helped us understand those things that many people thought were a nuisance at best, a horror at worst. That made him a great educator and conservationist.”
After his death, the vessel MV Robert Hunter owned by the environmental action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was renamed MY Steve Irwin. Shortly before his death, Irwin had been investigating joining Sea Shepherd’s 2007–2008 voyage to Antarctica to disrupt Japanese whaling activity. Following his death, the organisation suggested renaming their vessel, and this idea was endorsed by Terri Irwin.Regarding the ship and its new name, Terri said, “If Steve were alive, he’d be aboard with them!”