The Upside Down Under
Steve Irwin


CRIKEY! is a word made famous by one man - Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter

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). Together, the couple 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.

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter
Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

Sadly, Steve Irwin died on 4 September 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary film titled Ocean's Deadliest.

Steve Irwin was man who lived in his khakis and spent most of his time darting the bite of a venomous snake, wrangling a crocodile, or rescuing an animal in need of help. He had an infectious personality that was saturated with enthusiasm and a love for life and wildlife alike.

Little would he know it, but his "out there" persona and "can do" attitude would have him stirring a crowd wherever he went. His wild antics started from a young age, and having parents that cared for wildlife, it's no wonder Steve's drive for life was fueled from wildlife.

As the host of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve wowed audiences by the millions. He crouched in scorching heat and sloshed in thick mud for one purpose: because he was committed to the survival of all wildlife and their environment. A cut cheek, grazed knee or sliced hand would not slow him down or prevent him from saving as many animals as possible. Especially crocodiles, because as Steve said: "Crocs rule!"

Steve Irwin with croc
Steve Irwin with croc

Steve's life was a cocktail of love, passion, enthusiasm and respect for wildlife. His excitement over the most deadly snake or tiniest lizard brought him to the forefront of animal conservation. He set the precedent for making sure his fellow humans cared for and respected wildlife and the environment as much as he did.

Steve changed the world with his extreme conservation efforts and innovative ideas. He was a true blue Aussie bloke whose energy and passion shone through in all he did. Steve's legacy will live on forever. Through fellow Wildlife Warriors, wife Terri and children Bindi and Robert, his conservation work and larger than life personality will endure.

Steve's story

Stephen Robert Irwin was born to Lyn and Bob Irwin on 22 February, 1962, in upper Fern Tree Gully, Victoria. He moved with his parents and two sisters to Beerwah, Queensland, where his folks opened the Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park in 1970.

Steve grew up loving all wildlife, especially reptiles. He caught his first venomous snake (a Common Brown) at the tender age of six and would often arrive late to school after convincing his mother to pull over so he could rescue a lizard off the road.

A young Steve Irwin
A young Steve Irwin

By the time he was nine-years-old, he was helping his dad catch small problem crocodiles hanging around boat ramps by jumping on them in the water and wrestling them back into the dinghy. He always had an uncanny sixth sense when it came to wildlife and he spent his life honing that skill.

In the 1980s Steve spent months on end living in the most remote areas of far North Queensland catching problem crocodiles before they ended up shot by a poacher’s bullet. He worked with his little dog, Sui, and developed crocodile capture and management techniques that are now utilised with crocodilians around the world.

By 1980, the family wildlife park was called the ‘Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park’ and where Steve called home. Steve and his best mate, Wes Mannion, worked countless hours caring for the wildlife and maintaining the grounds.

In 1991 Steve took over managing the wildlife park and met Terri Rains, a visiting tourist, on 6 October. Steve and Terri were married in Eugene, Oregon, on 4 June 1992 at the Methodist church Terri’s grandmother used to attend.

Steve Irwin's Family
Steve with Terri & Bindi

Instead of a honeymoon, the couple embarked on filming a wildlife documentary with John Stainton from the ‘Best Picture Show’ company. The show was so successful it turned into a series and the Crocodile Hunter was born.

After Steve’s parents retired in the 1992 Steve worked tirelessly to improve and expand his wildlife park. Re-naming it Australia Zoo in 1998, Steve’s vision for the world’s best Zoo was coming to fruition. In July 2006 Steve set out his ten year business plan for his beloved zoo.

Australia Zoo sign
Australia Zoo sign featuring Steve Irwin

Steve's Honours

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 honour of naming the newly discovered species, he named it Irwin's turtle (Elseya irwini) 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 recognised as Tourism Export of the Year.  He was also nominated in 2004 for Australian of the Year. Shortly before his death, Irwin was to be named an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland's School of Integrative Biology. On 14 November 2007, Irwin was awarded the adjunct professorship posthumously.

Centenary Medal
The Centenary Medal commemorates 100 years of federation and acknowledges the challenges of the new century by recognising citizens and other people who made a contribution to Australian society or government.

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 honour; 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 with which the state government complied in mid-2009.

In 2015, Irwin was a posthumous recipient of the Queensland Greats Awards.

On 22 June 2017, it was announced that Irwin will be posthumously honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2009, Steve Irwin was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame, recognised for international entrepreneurship both in business and wildlife conservation, significantly contributing to Queensland and its international reputation.

Steve's accidental death

On 4 September 2006, Irwin was on location at Batt Reef, near Port Douglas, Queensland, taking part in the production of the documentary series Ocean's Deadliest. During a lull in filming caused by inclement weather, Irwin decided to snorkel in shallow waters while being filmed in an effort to provide footage for his daughter's television programme.

While swimming in chest-deep water, Irwin approached a stingray with an approximate span of two metres (6.5 ft) from the rear, in order to film it swimming away.

Stingray barb
Stingray barb

According to the incident's only witness, “All of a sudden [the stingray] propped on its front and started stabbing wildly with its tail. Hundreds of strikes in a few seconds”. Irwin initially believed he only had a punctured lung. However, the stingray's barb pierced his heart, causing him to bleed to death.  The stingray's behaviour appeared to have been a defensive response to being boxed in. Crew members aboard Irwin's boat administered CPR and rushed him to the nearby Low Isles where medical staff pronounced him dead.

Footage of the incident was viewed by Queensland state police as part of their mandatory investigations. All copies of the footage were then destroyed at the behest of Irwin's family. Production was completed on Ocean's Deadliest, which was broadcast in the US on the Discovery Channel on 21 January 2007. The documentary was completed with footage shot in the weeks following the accident, but without including any mention of Irwin's accidental death.

Reactions to Steve's death

News of Irwin's death prompted reactions around the world. Then-Prime Minister John Howard expressed "shock and distress" at the death, saying that "Australia has lost a wonderful and colourful son."

Queensland's then-Premier Peter Beattie remarked that Irwin would "be remembered as not just a great Queenslander, but a great Australian".  The Australian federal parliament opened on 5 September 2006 with condolence speeches by both Howard and the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley. Flags at the Sydney Harbour Bridge were lowered to half mast in honour of Irwin.

In the days following Irwin's death, reactions dominated Australian online news sources, talk-back radio programmes, and television networks.

In the United States, where Irwin had appeared in over 200 Discovery Network television programmes, special tributes appeared on the Animal Planet channel, as well as on CNN and major TV talk shows. Thousands of Irwin's fans visited Australia Zoo after his death, paying their respects and bringing flowers, candles, stuffed animals and messages of support.

Criticism of Irwin's career following his death came from Dan Mathews, vice-president of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Comparing Irwin to a "cheap reality TV star", Mathews accused him of "antagonising frightened wild animals ... a very dangerous message to send to children", contrasted his methods with the behaviour of "a responsible conservationist like Jacques Cousteau", and said it was "no shock at all that Steve Irwin should die provoking a dangerous animal."

The son of Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel Cousteau—also a producer of wildlife documentaries—took issue with Irwin's "very, very spectacular, dramatic way of presenting things" and suggested instead that "You don't touch nature, you just look at it."  Jacques Cousteau's grandson and Jean-Michel's nephew, Philippe Cousteau Jr., on the other hand, called Irwin "a remarkable individual"; describing the Ocean's Deadliest project (on which he worked along with Irwin), Philippe said, "I think why Steve was so excited about it that we were looking at these animals that people think of as, you know, dangerous and deadly monsters, and they're not. They all have an important place in the environment and in the world. And that was what his whole message was about."

In the weeks following Irwin's death, at least ten stingrays were found dead and mutilated on the beaches of Queensland, with their tails cut off, prompting speculation as to whether they might have been killed by fans of Irwin as an act of revenge, although, according to the chairman of the Queensland fishing information service, anglers regularly cut the tails off of accidentally caught stingrays to avoid being stung. Michael Hornby, a friend of Irwin and executive director of his Wildlife Warrior fund, condemned any revenge killings, saying that...

"We just want to make it very clear that we will not accept and not stand for anyone who's taken a form of retribution. That's the last thing Steve would want."

Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors

Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide was established in 2002, by Steve and Terri Irwin as a way to include and involve other caring people in the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife from the individual animal to an entire species.

Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors

It is our mission to be the most effective wildlife conservation organisation in the world through the delivery of outstanding outcome-based programs and projects, inclusive of humanity.

It is with this mission that Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors carries on the legacy of Steve Irwin by conducting wildlife conservation projects within Australia and around the world including; the Australia Wildlife Hospital, Tiger 511 in Sumatra, elephant conservation in Sumatra and Cambodia, orang-utan conservation in Sumatra, Tasmanian devil conservation, rhinoceros conservation in Kenya and cheetah conservation in South Africa as well as grey nurse shark research and conservation locally. Our biggest research project in Australia is the longest and most comprehensive study in existence on the saltwater crocodile.

Steve Irwin with Wildlife Warriors
Larger than life Steve Irwin and his wildlife warriors at Australia Zoo

Wildlife Warrior’s major sponsor, Australia Zoo, gives vital support to Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors by covering all administration costs and by providing other essential support where necessary. This means that 100% of all donations to the charity can be applied directly to where they are needed most, making an immediate impact in the world of wildlife conservation.

Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide Ltd is a registered charity in Australia and is listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations. It is a deductible gift recipient and donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Wildlife Warriors USA Inc is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

You can help keep Steve's legacy by donating here:

Video: A musical tribute to the legendary conservationist & crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.


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