I remember a time when I never gave wildlife a first thought. Enter Steve Irwin, also known as, The Crocodile Hunter. When he came onto the scene in his syndicated show, I actually learned something. In Columbus, Ohio, we have Jack Hannah, but not even he got me interested in wildlife like Steve Irwin did. So full of life and love for all creatures, Steve brought an enthusiasm and love for animals like no one I had ever seen. I also credit him for helping me to get over my fear of snakes. When I learned of his untimely death, it was then, in the middle of that shock and disbelief, that I realized how much he influenced me to appreciate and respect animals and their habitat.
Stephen Robert Irwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006) was an Australian wildlife expert, television personality, and conservationist. Irwin achieved worldwide fame from the television series The Crocodile Hunter, an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series which he co-hosted with his wife Terri. Together, the couple also owned and operated Australia Zoo, founded by Irwin's parents in Beerwah, about 80 kilometers (50 mi) north of the Queensland state capital city of Brisbane. Irwin died on the 4th of September in 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary film titled Ocean’s Deadliest.
Irwin was born on his mother's birthday to Lyn and Bob Irwin in Essendon, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. He moved with his parents as a child to Queensland in 1970, where he attended Landsborough State School and Caloundra State High School. Irwin described his father as a wildlife expert interested in herpetology, while his mother Lyn was a wildlife rehabilitator. After moving to Queensland, Bob and Lyn Irwin started the small Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, where Steve grew up around crocodiles and other reptiles.
Irwin became involved with the park in a number of ways, including taking part in daily animal feeding, as well as care and maintenance activities. On his sixth birthday he was given a 12-foot (4 m) scrub python. He began handling crocodiles at the age of nine after his father had educated him on reptiles from an early age. Also at age nine he wrestled his first crocodile, again under his father's supervision. He worked as a volunteer for Queensland's East Coast Crocodile Management program and captured over 100 crocodiles, some of which were relocated, while others were housed at the family park. Irwin took over the management of the park in 1991 and renamed it Australia Zoo in 1992.
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 June 4th, 1992. Together they had two children: a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin (born July 24th, 1998), and a son, Robert Clarence Irwin (born December 1st 2003). Bindi Sue is jointly named after two of Steve Irwin's favorite animals: Bindi, a saltwater crocodile, and Sui, a Stafford Bull Terrier who died on June 23rd 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 jewelry could pose a hazard to them and/or the animals.
Steve and Terri spent their honeymoon trapping crocodiles together. Film footage of their honeymoon, taken by John Stainton, became the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter. The series debuted on Australian TV screens in 1996, and made its way onto North American television the following year. The Crocodile Hunter became successful in the United States, the UK, and over 130 other countries, reaching 500 million people. Irwin's exuberant and enthusiastic presenting style, broad Australian accent, signature khaki shorts, and catchphrase “Crikey!” became known worldwide. Sir David Attenborough praised Irwin for introducing many to the natural world, saying “He taught them how wonderful and exciting it was, he was a born communicator.”
American satellite and cable television channel Animal Planet ended The Crocodile Hunter with a series finale titled “Steve's Last Adventure.” The last Crocodile Hunter documentary spanned three hours with footage of Irwin's across-the-world adventure in locations including the Himalayas, the Yangtze River, Borneo, and the Kruger National Park. Irwin went on to star in other Animal Planet documentaries, including Croc Files, The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, and New Breed Vets. During a January 2006 interview on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Irwin announced that Discovery Kids would be developing a show for his daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin - a plan realized after his death as the series Bindi The Jungle Girl.
In November 2003, Irwin was filming a documentary on sea lions off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula when he heard via his boat's radio that two scuba divers were reported missing in the area. Irwin and his entire crew suspended operations to aid in the search. His team's divers searched with the rescue divers, and Irwin used his vessel to patrol the waters around the island where the incident occurred, as well as using his satellite communications system to call in a rescue plane. On the second day of the search, kayakers found one of the divers, Scott Jones, perched on a narrow rock ledge jutting out from the side of a cliff. Irwin and a crewmember escorted him to Irwin's boat. Jones did not recognize Irwin. The other lost diver, Katie Vrooman, was found dead by a search plane later the same day not far from Jones' location.
In 1997, while on a fishing trip on the coast of Queensland with his father, Irwin discovered a new species of turtle. Later given the honor of naming the newly discovered species, he named it Irwins turtle (Elseya Irwin) after his family. Another newly discovered Australian animal - a species of air-breathing land snail, Crikey Steveirwini, was named after Irwin in 2009.
In 2001, Irwin was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian government for his “service to global conservation and to Australian tourism“. In 2004, he was recognized as Tourism Export of the Year. He was also nominated in 2004 for Australian of the Year - an honor which was won that year by Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh. Shortly before his death, Irwin was to be named an adjunct professor at the University of Queenland’s School of Integrative Biology. On November 14th, 2007, Irwin was awarded the adjunct professorship posthumously.
In May 2007, the government of Rwanda announced that it would name a baby gorilla after Irwin as a tribute to his work in wildlife conservation. Also in 2007, the state government of Kerala, India named the Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Centre at Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in his honor; however, Terri objected that this action had been taken without her permission and asked the Kerala government in 2009 to stop using Irwin's name and images - a request which the state government complied with in mid 2009. (No reason was ever given)
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. 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 realizing 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 October 31st, 2006. Irwin, after his death, was described by Mark Townsend, 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 “humanity 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.”
News of Irwin's death prompted reactions around the world. Then Australian Prime Minister John Howard expressed his “shock and distress” at the death, saying that “Australia has lost a wonderful and colorful son.” Queensland Premier Peter Beattie commented in a Channel Seven television interview that Irwin would “be remembered as not just a great Queenslander, but a great Australian.” The Australian federal parliament opened on September 5th, 2006 with condolence speeches by both Howard, and the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley. Flags at the Sydney Harbor Bridge were lowered to half-mast in honor of Irwin.
Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Irwin
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