From time to time, and sometimes only, a television personality presents himself, whose enthusiasm and charisma arouse an almost universal affection for the public. The environmentalist, naturalist and documentary filmmaker Steve Irwin – known worldwide as the crocodile hunter – was one of those rare personalities.
Born to Steven Robert Irwin on September 22, 1962 in Melbourne, Australia, Steve Irwin was the owner and manager of the Australian Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland. The zoo, originally called Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, belonged to his parents, Bob and Lyn.
As a young man, Irwin worked as a crocodile trapper in Queensland, capturing and removing fangs from populated areas. Although he does not get a salary, he works as long as he can keep the crocodiles that he has captured for his parents&39; zoo.
After heading the zoo in 1991, Irwin met his future wife, US veterinarian Terri Raines. Following a flash romance, the couple got married and the video footage of their crocodile-hiding honeymoon was aired as the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter, the series that made Irwin an international celebrity .
The success of The Crocodile Hunter has led Discovery Channel and Animal Planet to commission several Wildlife series at Irwin, including The Croc Files, The Crocodile Hunter Diaries and New Breed Vets. Renowned for his expansive personality and boundless enthusiasm, Irwin&39;s documentaries made him an Australian icon – often ridiculed, but equally praised for his idiosyncrasies.
What made Irwin so popular with audiences around the world is his intrepid attitude towards wild animals. Often seen chasing serpents, fangs and all kinds of dangerous creatures, the public is not so much concerned with seeing animals as seeing Irwin&39;s incredible feats of courage and fearlessness. His documentaries so attracted the audience that they were adapted to the
2002 movie The Hunter Crocodile: Collision Course.
Irwin&39;s enthusiasm for his subject however prevailed from time to time and his career was fraught with difficulties. In 2004, during a public performance at the Australia Zoo, he took his son Bob to the crocodile enclosure, holding him in one arm while feeding a crocodile on the other. . Irwin, however, refused to apologize for the stunt, insisting that the child was never really in danger.
In 2004, Irwin again became controversial during a trip to Antarctica, facing allegations that he disturbed whales, seals and penguins while shooting a documentary.
Irwin&39;s life ends tragically on the morning of September 4, 2006 while shooting a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. While filming a ray, he came too close and was struck by a beard in his chest, causing a fatal wound, and was declared dead at the scene. He was 44 years old.
Steve Irwin is survived by his wife Terri and two young children, Bindi Sue and Robert Clarence.
Although Irwin always lived on the razor&39;s edge, we did not really expect him to be killed. There was just something about the trust with which he handled dangerous creatures that left us thinking that he was invulnerable. His antics were not entirely real – if they had been, we might not have been so quick to laugh.
So we were surprised to inform him that he had been killed. Even more, considering how he died. After all, Irwin was only the third person to have been killed by a stingray in Australia. The rays are generally considered relatively docile and it is even possible to feed them by hand in good conditions.
Irwin&39;s death, though tragic, may perhaps be considered a final act of staging. He won our hearts with his stunts defying death and it seems appropriate that he should go out with a bang. Although it would be miserable to shed light on his death, one could perhaps claim that it was what he would have liked to do, while living to the limit. This could perhaps come as a small consolation for the family of a man who died before his time.
Steve Irwin was, in life as in death, an Australian icon: a Dundee Crocodile of modern life. He was everything that we thought was typically Australian: robust, adventurous and dangerous, but not without humor. While Australians were often embarrassed by his antics, viewing him as a caricature of Australian stereotypes, this is precisely why the rest of the world loves him.
Steve Irwin was a passionate advocate of the environment, a tireless advocate for his country, a great artist, a loving husband and father. Often controversial, always fun, there will always be a place in our hearts for the crocodile hunter. The world is poorer for its absence.