Who Was Steve Irwin?
Steve Irwin grew up on a wildlife park owned by his parents and went on to become an animal enthusiast and TV personality, hosting the popular series The Crocodile Hunter and appearing on major talk shows. Irwin's work spawned an array of merchandise tie-ins. He was killed by a stingray during a diving expedition on September 4, 2006, off the coast of Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia.
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.
'The 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.
Irwin occasionally drew criticism for his stunts. Some said that he was exploiting the animals that appeared on his shows. He stirred up even greater controversy in 2004 for feeding a crocodile while holding his infant son. Many were shocked by the images of Irwin and his son Robert with the snapping crocodile and accused Irwin of child endangerment. Irwin was never charged in regard to this incident and stated that his son was never in harm's way. He had grown up in a zoo environment and wanted the same experience for his son and his daughter, Bindi Sue.
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.
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.
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