Steve Irwin: How He Rose to Fame as the Crocodile Hunter
Google commemorated the life of Steve Irwin on Friday with a homepage doodle on what would have been the Australian’s 57th birthday. Irwin became a household name through his animal activism and television appearances, first launching onto screens of Animal Planet viewers with his show The Crocodile Hunter.
Irwin was born in the Essendon near Melbourne in 1962 to parents Lyn and Bob Irwin. His parents famously gave him an 11-foot scrub python for his 6th birthday which he named Fred. The young Steve learned a lot from his parents about animals, and they laid the foundations for Beerwah Reptile Park when they bought some land in 1970. Steve learned to wrestle crocodiles from the age of 9, and helped manage the family-owned park. The park was renamed Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, and in 1990, it was renamed Australia Zoo — the same year Steve met producer John Stainton. He met his future wife, Oregonian Terri Raines, when she was visiting the park the following year. Their croc-filled honeymoon in 1992 formed the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter.
Steve and his wife exploded in popularity, as over 500 million people in over 100 countries tuned in to watch the team’s escapades, waiting for Steve to drop his signature “Crikey!” The show broke with other wildlife documentaries in Steve’s charismatic and wild delivery, demonstrating fearlessness when faced with danger. In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal, and the following year he starred in his first feature film, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. In 2004, he was nominated for Australian of the Year.
Irwin was unexpectedly killed on September 5, 2006, when hosting a filming expedition on the Great Barrier Reef. He was stung by a stingray barb to the chest, an extremely rare occurrence: only two such incidents had been recorded in Australian waters since 1945, and only around one fatal attack per year occurs worldwide. In a statement on his death, Discovery Networks’ International President Dawn McCall said that “Steve’s passion for animals and leadership in conservation awareness leaves a powerful and lasting legacy across the globe.”
Steve’s legacy lives on in Steve Irwin Day, held annually on November 15 to commemorate the life of the Crocodile Hunter. Followers are encouraged to don khaki as a symbol of his life.