Steve Irwin Biography (1962-2006)

Steve IrwinWildlife expert, , television show host. Born on February 22, 1962, in Essendon in Victoria, Australia. Part wildlife expert and part entertainer, Irwin became world famous for his television series, The Crocodile Hunter, and 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.

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 television show, The Crocodile Hunter, and the two worked together on the program. 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.

In each program, audiences were often spellbound by Irwin’s dangerous encounters with animals. 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 next 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 Bob 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 grew up in a zoo environment and wanted the same for his son and his daughter Bindi Sue.

On September 4, 2006, Irwin was working on a new program, filming at the Great Barrier Reef in 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 made many contributions to the field of wildlife education and conservation during his life. He ran an organization to rescue and protect crocodiles and supported numerous other animal charities. Many of nature’s dangerous creatures lost their greatest champion the day Irwin died.

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