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Steve Irwin THE CROCODILE HUNTER AND PLANET SAVER Author: Tanya Bunge Now and then, someone with a little extra spark is born. A person who makes their mark in the world and perhaps changes the course of history, well, for crocs anyway.Australian-born Steve Irwin was such a man. In fact, Steve was probably the most-loved conservationist, zookeeper, environmentalist, wildlife expert and TV personality the world had ever known. Instead of fighting for his beloved reptiles by protesting, petitions or the usual ways, he used his gregarious, cheerful and slightly whacky personality to educate folks about the world's most dangerous creatures. Steve became a household name in 1992 when "The Crocodile Hunter" series was born. The world loved his childlike enthusiasm, and his favourite word, "Crikey", has been used to name a snail species discovered in the Wet Tropics (Crikey steveirwini) and a comet, now called 57567 Crikey.
But let's go back to the beginning…
How did it start? Steven Robert Irwin was born on 22 February 1962, in upper Fern Tree Gully, Victoria, on his mother's 20th birthday. His parents, Bob (wildlife expert with an interest in herpetology) and Lyn (wildlife rehabilitator) moved to Beerwah in Queensland in 1970, where they opened Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park".
Growing up, Steve was expected to help with the daily feeding of the animals and maintenance. Bob taught Steve well, and his passion for herpetology rubbed off onto the little crocodile hunter. At age six, Steve received a 12-ft (4m) long scrub python for his birthday. He also caught his first venomous snake, a Common Brown, at this tender young age.
At nine years old, Steve appropriately earned the name "Crocodile Hunter" by jumping onto a young croc's back and subduing it while out with his dad. Together, they saved countless problem crocs by catching them and relocating them before they got shot.
By 1980, Beerwah Park had become "Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park". Steve and bestie Wes Mannion put everything they had into caring for the place Irwin called "home".
In 1991, Steve met a tourist, Terri Rains, at the park. 4 June 1992 wasn't just the start of their marriage but also sparked the creation of "The Crocodile Hunter". Instead of a traditional honeymoon, Steve and Terri filmed a wildlife documentary with John Stainton, and this documentary evolved into the popular Animal Planet series.
When Steve's folks retired in 1992, Steve and Terri upgraded and enlarged the park, renaming it "Australia Zoo" in 1998. By 2003, the Irwin family had grown to four and included Bindi Sue and little Robert. Always passionate about his cause, in July 2006, Steve laid out a 10-year plan for the zoo, not realizing that he would be dead in just two months' time.
Sadly, Steve is gone today, but he left an amazing legacy behind, and his children have undertaken to live up to it. Discovery Kids created a show especially for Steve's daughter, Bindi Sue. "Bindi the Jungle Girl" came into being in 2007, not long after Steve's passing.
Steve made a very definite mark on the world. "The Crocodile Hunter" ran for 11 years and, after MythBusters, is the second-longest-running program of any Discovery communications network ever aired. Steve also starred as himself in "Croc Hunter: Collision Course", a movie that won the "Best Family Feature Film" award for a comedy at the Young Artist Awards. Streets, parks, zoos, and even a vessel have been named after this hero of the natural world. None of his fans will ever forget the shock and horror of that fateful day, 4 September 2006, when Steve died doing what he loved while filming with a stingray. The Irwin family will continue protecting Steven's legacy in love, in honour of his memory and the ongoing support of the causes he believed in.