How the Irwins Still Honor 'The Crocodile Hunter' in Conservation Efforts
One of the greatest wildlife and conservation legacies of our time is none other than Australian native, Steve Irwin. Steve skyrocketed to stardom with his television series, “The Crocodile Hunter,” which he filmed for 11 years with his soulmate and partner in crime, Terri Irwin.
But Steve and Terri had long been caring for and protecting wildlife before the television series made them household names. The two have been dedicated to conserving, rehabilitating and releasing animals back into the wild since the 1970s (crikey!). Clad usually in khaki, Steve and Terri have been effortlessly helping the world’s most fearsome beasts, showing the rest of the world the hearts behind the most exotic creatures in the world.
While Steve Irwin tragically died in 2006, his life’s work is carried on through Terri and their two children, Bindi and Robert. Together, the Irwins have left an indelible mark on the world, both through their wildlife conservation efforts and their genuine, warm and loving personalities. This is their story.
Born Into Wildlife
Steve Irwin was born with wildlife in his blood.
While he was born in 1962 in Melbourne, Australia, his childhood was spent on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, where he helped his parents at the Beerwah Reptile Park.
A Love of Reptiles
The park was established in 1970 as a 2-acre wildlife park, founded by Bob and Lyn Irwin.
It was here that Steve first began to understand the world of wildlife, in particular freshwater crocodiles, lace monitors, tiger snakes, magpie geese and kangaroos.
A Family Trait
Steve's compassion and gentleness toward animals can be learned from his mother, Lyn. In fact, Lyn took care of many kangaroos in homemade pouches.
She was gifted when it came to rehabilitating wildlife, nursing injured and orphaned animals, and returning them back into the wild.
A Born Natural
Steve was a natural with animals, demonstrating the same compassion that his mother showed, and with very little fear.
In fact, he would go on field trips with his parents helping them to relocate problem crocodiles, studying snakes and helping the local university with surveys of birds.
Drawn to Crocs
During the 1980s, the wildlife park grew from 2 to 4 acres and had two full-time staff members. It was then that the park was rebranded as the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park.
During the 1980s, Steve was asked by the Queensland Government to help with the East-Coast Crocodile Management Program. During his time with the program, he captured more than 100 crocodiles, which were either given a home in the park or were relocated.
Love at First Sight
By the 1990s, Steve was in charge of the wildlife park. It was in 1991 that Terri Raines, a woman from Eugene, Oregon, visited the park.
Steve knew he was in trouble. She had ensnared his heart upon first sight.
Like Steve, Terri was introduced to nurturing wounded wildlife from a young age. Her father was a long-distance truck driver, who would often bring home injured wildlife from the road.
By the time she was 20 years old, she was running the family business.
Terri’s Passion for Wildlife
Terri had quite the wildlife career on her own before she met Steve. As a child, she loved wandering the outdoors looking for creatures — specifically rattlesnakes.
In 1986, she started Cougar Country, an organization that was dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured predators like cougars, bobcats, bears and foxes and released them back into the wild. In 1988, she also worked at an emergency veterinary hospital.
A Match Made in Queensland
What started as a vacation to Australia would change the course of Terri's life. She visited the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, and it was there that she met her match.
That was in 1991. The two were married in June 1992. Terri moved to Australia and never looked back.
A Crocodile Honeymoon
While most couples embark on a honeymoon after the wedding, Steve and Terri are anything but ordinary. Rather than sipping champagne on a tropical beach, the newlyweds decided to use their honeymoon time to set off on a crocodile rescue mission, filming the experience as they went.
Little did they know that they'd be laying the groundwork for the first episode of “The Crocodile Hunter.”
Conservation Through Exciting Education
After the honeymoon, Steve and Terri took full ownership of the park, renaming it to Australia Zoo — the name it retains today. The Australia Zoo is now more than 700 acres with a staff of more than 500.
The chief mission of the zoo is to perpetuate Steve's lifelong mission of Conservation Through Exciting Education.
A Second Expansion
Not only was the park growing, but the Irwin clan was growing as well. In 1998, Steve and Terri welcomed their first child, Bindi.
She got her name from one of Steve's favorite crocodiles. Bindi also translates to “young girl” in a few indigenous Australian dialects.
And Then a Third…
By 2003, the family became a foursome when Robert was born.
Both children were born with the call of the wild in their blood, as would be shown just a few more years down the line.
Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital
As the filming of “The Crocodile Hunter” and all of its spinoffs became international success stories, Steve and Terri reinvested the money they had raised back into conservation.
They established the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, and in 2004, Steve dedicated the hospital to his mother, who passed in 2000. Today, the hospital rescues and rehabilitates more than 7,000 Australian animals every year.
In 2002, Steve and Terri founded Wildlife Warriors as a way to bring other people into the role of caring for and rehabilitating threatened or endangered wildlife.
The non-profit charity has assembled a team of international warriors that today focuses on nine conservation projects, three conservation properties and a following of global donors.
Mourning an Icon
It was a tragic day for the animal kingdom on Sept. 4, 2006, when the world lost Steve Irwin. He was pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
While it was a devastating loss to his family and the world, there is some comfort in that Steve died doing what he loved more than anything.
Steve Irwin Lives On
Even after death, Steve continues to be recognized for his achievements. In 2006, he was awarded Honorary Professorship by The University of Queensland's School of Integrative Biology.
In 2007, a 334,000-acre national reserve was established on Cape York and was named the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in his honor.
The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is made up of a beautiful tapestry of rainforests, wetlands and savannas. The land was purchased by the Australian Government after Steve's death and is used as a place for scientific research.
Today, the Irwin family and the Australia Zoo have taken over the management of the reserve.
The Biggest Accolade of All
By 2009, a new species of snail was named in his honor: the Crikey steveirwini. He was also inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame.
In 2018, Steve even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Terri Fights on for Wildlife
Terri went on to earn significant accolades and outstanding achievements of her own. In 2006, she was recognized for her outstanding dedication to wildlife conservation and the tourism industry and was dubbed an Honorary Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia.
In 2013, she was able to stop bauxite mining within the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, a battle she had fought for six years.
She, too, received a species named after her. In 2014, a new species of spider was named Leichhardteus terriirwinae.
By 2015, she received an Honorary Science Doctorate from the University of Queensland (UQ).
An Eternal Love
Today, Terri works as the owner of the Australia Zoo, where she continues to preserve the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.
And despite what the tabloids allude to regarding a relationship with actor Russell Crowe, Terri has never remarried and is admittedly still entirely devoted to Steve.
Steve Irwin Day
On Nov. 15, 2009, Terri was named an Australian citizen.
And Nov. 15 would go on to become a national holiday — Steve Irwin Day.
Bindi Joins the Family Business
Both Bindi and Robert would likely agree that their father was a great dad.
From an early age, Steve taught his children to respect and protect all wildlife, and Bindi has taken that to heart. She continues the family legacy in wildlife conservation.
Bindi’s Television Debut
Bindi was born with the Australia Zoo as her playground. Animals have been just as an important part of her family as her parents and brother. In fact, she made her TV debut on “The Crocodile Hunter.”
Because of her genuine passion and engaging personality, she was given her own television series, “Bindi: The Jungle Girl.” She won an Emmy in 2008 for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series.
Bindi’s Outstanding Achievements
Like her father, she has so many outstanding achievements from which to choose. From Emmy awards and nominations to the lead role in “Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors” to a second series, “Bindi Wildlife Adventures.”
She has also received the Australian Geographic Society's Young Conservationist of the Year award. Yet another show debuted in 2018 called “Crikey! It's the Irwins.” That same year she was awarded the Australian Tourism Awards 'Australian Tourism Legends' accolade along with her mother and brother.
Bindi Carries on the Irwin Legacy
Currently, Bindi spends her time traveling the world, learning as much as she can about the planet and how best she and others can protect it.
She also is very much involved with Wildlife Warriors.
Robert Irwin was born in December 2003 and often is said to be the spitting image of his father. Like his dad, sister and mom, he is passionate about crocodiles and nature.
He’s an avid photographer as well and enjoys wildlife photography wherever he travels.
Robert is part of an annual research trip with the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, located in northern Queensland. The goal of the research trip is to catch and tag crocodiles with tracking devices before releasing them back into the wild.
It's through Robert that Steve continues to live on working with crocodiles.
Like the rest of his family, Robert has earned a fair share of achievements as well. He helped to co-create and provided the illustrations for a book series — “Robert Irwin: Dinosaur Hunter.” In 2017, he was named an Ambassador for Scouts Australia and was a finalist in the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year in the junior category.
In 2019, he began campaigning to overturn legislation that allows harvesting of wild crocodile eggs. He was also the winner of the Queensland Tourism Awards Young Achievers award.
Today, the Australia Zoo is part of many different conservation projects.
Some include the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Australia Zoo Rescue Unit, Women for Wildlife, Koala Conservation and more.
The University of Queensland Partnership
The UQ research team annually teams up with the Irwin family and the Australia Zoo to continue Steve's work to track crocodiles.
To date, the project has tracked more than 190 estuarine crocodiles, which provides essential data to help grow the knowledge base of these predators.
The Zoo as a Classroom
What's more, the Australia Zoo has a full curriculum for students, from kindergarten through tertiary learning. There is even a program for international students.
The philosophy is that every learning style is different, so the zoo has formulated a curriculum-based learning plan that allows the zoo to become a classroom.
A Legacy in the Making
They didn't know it yet, but Terri and Steve would film more than 300 episodes of “The Crocodile Hunter” as well as “Croc Diaries,” “Croc Files,” “New Breed Vets,” “Ghosts of War” and “Bindi: The Jungle Girl,” reaching more than 500 million viewers around the world.
“The Crocodile Hunter” was the second-longest-running series among all Discovery Communications programs.
Saving the World’s Wildlife
Today, Steve’s important work lives on through his family and the foundations that they have established.
From the Australia Zoo to Wildlife Warriors, many television series, teaching roles and ambassadorships, the Irwins continue to save the world’s wildlife, one animal at a time.