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On This Day 1962: Birth of the Crocodile Hunter

• Written by Josh

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In the second entry of our 'On This Day' series we take a look back at the life of The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, who was born 54-years-ago today.

The wildlife expert became one of the most popular characters around the world for the work that he did with animals and the entertainment he provided on television.

Today Lifeline24 celebrates what would have been his 54th birthday with our 'On This Day' special.

Before the cameras

Irwin was born in Melbourne and grew-up studying and caring for animals at his parent's wildlife park which was originally called The Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. It is said that Irwin became involved with the park in a number of different ways and would often be seen feeding the animals.

Due to his early education of reptiles his father, Bob Irwin, allowed him to begin handling crocodiles at the age of nine and even wrestled one under the watchful eye of his father.

Irwin also became a volunteer for Queensland's East Coast Crocodile Management programme and captured over 100 crocodiles - some of which were housed at the family park.

Irwin took over the management of the park in 1991 before renaming it Australia Zoo the following year.

The Crocodile Hunter

Origins of the hit TV programme, The Crocodile Hunter, began on Irwin's honeymoon with Terri Raines when the pair filmed themselves trapping crocodiles. Their honeymoon became the first episode of the programme, which aired in 1992.

The couple met at the zoo when Terri, a naturalist from Oregon, was on a trip to the country to visit wildlife rehabilitation facilities.

The Crocodile Hunter was picked up by American channel, Animal Planet, in 1996 and run for five seasons. The show followed the life of Irwin and his wife, mainly at Australia Zoo. The show was a huge success and was shown in around 130 different countries.

Each episode Irwin would be battling with a different crocodile or teaching the viewers about other species. Irwin's character arguably made the show even more successful - with his now trademark enthusiastic style, khaki shorts and catchphrases such as "Crickey!"

The show showed what life at the zoo was really like and just how spectacular and dangerous some of the work done by Irwin was.  There were a number of occasions when he came very close to being attacked by a crocodile.

Alongside the main programme, Irwin also did other work including 'Croc Files' The Crocodile Hunter Diaries and New Breed Pets. He also did shows focusing on other deadly animals, with the most famous being 'The Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World."

Death

Irwin was busy filming for a brand-new programme, called Ocean's Deadliest, when he came into contact with a stingray in the Batt Reef. Upon approach it is believed that the stingray reacted to Irwin as if a shark was attacking by striking the Australian 'several hundred times' with its tail spine.

The stingray's spine had pierced Irwin's heart and despite the best efforts of his TV crew members, he was pronounced dead back at shore. The cameraman who accompanied him in the water said that the stingray's behaviour appeared to have been a defensive response to being boxed in.

News of The Crocodile Hunter passing away came as a huge shock around the globe. Flags at the Sydney Harbour Bridge were lowered to half mast and then-Prime Minister John Howard also paid tribute to the fallen star.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation society also re-named their flagship vessel as the MY Steve Irwin to pay tribute. Irwin had considered joining the vessel on a voyage to Antarctica shortly before his death.

Since his death Irwin's daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin, has taken on responsibility at Australia Zoo and has even had her own wildlife programme; Bindi the Jungle girl.

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