It’s hard not to love Steve Irwin. His compassion for animals and enthusiasm for wildlife conservation helped him achieve the goal of educating the masses. His charm and showmanship helped to make him a household name. He died far too soon. However, he did so while doing what he loved. Today would have been the Crocodile Hunter’s fifty-ninth birthday. To celebrate, we’re looking back at some of the moments that made him so special to TV audiences around the world.
Steve Irwin’s Early Years
Anyone who watched Steve Irwin’s wildlife shows knows that he passed his passion for wildlife conservation on to his children. He had them involved with his work from an early age. Today, both Bindi and Robert carry on his legacy. Soon, there will be a new generation of Irwins to carry the torch.
Steve Irwin got his start in wildlife conservation in much the same way according to Britannica. His parents participated in wildlife conservation efforts during Steve’s youth. Much like he would do with his children, his parents brought him along.
In 1970, the Irwin family moved to Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. There, they founded the Beerwah Reptile Park. The establishment covered four acres of land. They took in reptiles and rehabilitated kangaroos and wallabies. Steve Irwin worked side by side with his parents to take care of the animals.
When the senior Irwin went into the Outback to trap reptiles for the East Coast Crocodile Management Program, he took the young Steve along. The government-sponsored program aimed to reduce crocodile hunting. They would trap the reptiles and move them to less-populated areas. At a young age, Steve found that he excelled at catching and subduing crocodiles.
The Crocodile Hunter is Born
When Steve Irwin became an adult, he started working for the East Coast Crocodile Management Program on his own. He would spend weeks out in the Outback trapping and relocating big reptiles and venomous snakes. It didn’t take long for Irwin to make a name for himself as Australia’s top croc-catcher.
While out in the bush, he would set up a camera to record some of his captures. Later, he was tapped as a consultant for a TV commercial. He showed a producer with Australia’s Channel 10 some of his footage. The producer was blown away and immediately suggested that the clips be turned into a documentary. In 1992, the original “Crocodile Hunter” program hit Australian airwaves. Audiences loved it. This success led to several more television specials, and eventually, a regular series. The Discovery Channel picked up the series in 1996 and the rest is history.
Steve Irwin Did It All for the Animals
In 1991, Steve Irwin took over the Beerwah Reptile Park. He met Terri Raines, the woman he would marry, at the park that same year. By 1992 they were married and running the park together. When the television show took off, Terri worked side by side with Steve. They weren’t just a couple. They were a team. More importantly, they shared a common goal: saving endangered animals.
They used Steve Irwin’s popularity to grow the park. In 1992, they renamed it from Beerwah Reptile Park to The Australia Zoo. They also expanded it several times over the years. The small four-acre park eventually grew to 80 acres. It currently houses over 1,000 animals. The popularity of “The Crocodile Hunter” made the zoo a huge tourist attraction.
The Irwins used the money that came from the zoo and the TV show to fund further conservation efforts. They set up several private wildlife refuges across Australia. In 2002, they started Wildlife Warriors Worldwide. The organization allows the Irwin family to involve concerned people from around the world to help them in the quest for wildlife conservation.
In the end, fame and money weren’t important to Steve Irwin. They just allowed him to do what he would have been doing anyway on a much larger scale. In a famous quote, he sums up his goals in life and why he did what he did.
“I believe that education is all about being excited about something.… That’s the main aim in our entire lives is to promote education about wildlife and wilderness areas, save habitats, save endangered species, etc. So, if we can get people excited about animals, then by crikey, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to save them.”
It’s safe to say that Steve Irwin succeeded in his mission. Not only did he get people all around the world excited about wildlife conservation but he also inspired his children to follow in his footsteps. The Crocodile Hunter was a hero to animals and an inspiration to humans. His life was much too short but it was a life well-lived.