Over 500 million viewers in 130 countries around the world have watched the late Steve Irwin, aka The Crocodile Hunter. That is an unprecedented number of viewers for documentary series programming. It is estimated that over 1.5 billion hours have been dedicated to watching his programs.
Exciting, entertaining, fearless, compassionate, funny are just a few of the words used to describe his genius. In 2002, his feature film The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course opened in the top 10 at the domestic box office, taking in over $9 million dollars opening weekend. He is the only zookeeper in the world to have starred in his own hit film released by a major studio.
Steven Irwin is just as famous now as he was 11 years ago. He died unexpectedly at the age of 44, after being barbed to death by a stingray in the ocean while filming. Animal Planet recently announced that his widow Terri and their two children Bindi and Robert would be returning to the network with a new series in 2018. Steve is also being posthumously honored with a star on the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018. His three most famous series The Crocodile Hunter, The Croc Files, and The Crocodile Hunter Diaries are still readily available on Animal Planet, YouTube, Amazon, and on DVD at many online retailers.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind The Crocodile Hunter.
15. Steve ate meat and refused to go vegetarian
In an interview with Scientific American, Steve goes in to details on how he can be such an avid animal lover and still not be a vegetarian. He argues that it is worse for biodiversity to clear an area of wildlife solely for a soy field or rice paddy, where the only ones that benefit from it are humans and insects. A cow needs plenty of natural open space to graze in, but the surrounding area can be left untouched for other types of animals, plants and trees.
Steve is one of the most famous people to preach the importance of loving and respecting animals. This includes his view point that animals are a natural part of a humans diet, however he did not comment on factory farming.
14. PETA found him to be a negative example for kids
Steve was a risk taker and did not shy away from situations that could be considered dangerous or unsafe involving animals. It was part of who he was and part of what made him fun to watch. He loved what he was doing. He never claimed what he did was safe for the viewing audience to try at home.
PETA has become known for their strong stance against any improper treatment of animals. They believe that Steve does exactly this when he invades their natural habitat or brings them to his zoo for filming.
Steve had decades of experience and grew up in a zoo his parents ran and owned. This gave him a unique skill set that can come only from experience. To this day, PETA still has two harsh warnings about Steve Irwin on their website.
13. Steve was afraid of Parrots
Steve has gone on record multiple times saying that parrots are the only animals he’s not fully comfortable with, one time stating they almost tore his nose off. He suffered multiple other bites, some being quite serious. He even went so far as to refer to parrots as his kryptonite.
“The only animals I’m not comfortable with are parrots, but I’m learning as I go. I’m getting better and better at’em. I really am.”
Would Steve eventually have mastered the art of parrot whispering? It is surprising that the most famous bird breed in the world could be so feisty. Steve’s openness about his experience is part of his enduring legacy. This honesty and candor is another reason we love Steve Irwin.
12. Steve travelled without a supply of anti-venom
It seems outrageous to most people that anyone working this closely with poisonous animals would not take every safety precaution available. That was just how Steve rolled. He had been working with venomous animals his entire life. When we look at the hundreds of photos of him with many snakes and spiders, it is still surreal that Steve kept zero anti-venom on hand.
Steve shared with Reptile Magazine, “When I grab hold of them, this karma exudes through my fingertips into the animal and they feel a lot more comfortable and I don’t get bitten. And I take great pride [that] I don’t get envenomated. I don’t carry antivenin, never have, never will.” This quote is a great insight of his approach with dangerous animals.
11. Steve’s zoo caused controversy
There are many countries that still don’t have good conservation methods in place. There is an ongoing debate about taking animals out of their natural habitat. Steve created controversy with his dedication and belief in the positives of keeping wildlife captive.
Steve’s zoo has now grown to over 100 acres, with more than 1,000 animals. Captive breeding can be essential for keeping species alive and regulating the population of an endangered species. Many different types of animals that might be aggressive in the wild adapt nicely to being enclosed, and can be friendly with the caretakers. The issue is that captive animals can never be returned to their natural habitat since they lack the skills they need to survive.
Having endangered species attracts visitors, which all zoos are dependent on to stay in business. Zoos often provide the only safe space for animals that have been chased out of their natural habitat.
10. Steve faced an investigation from child services in 2004
In 2004, Steve was seen feeding chicken to Murray the Crocodile while holding his infant son. This resulted in public backlash and an investigation from child services. In response, Steve made a public apology and the Queensland government changed laws to prohibit children and untrained adults from being inside crocodile exhibits or contained habitats.
This was not the only time Steve was in the spotlight for having his kids around animals. A separate incident involved a photo with his daughter Bindi holding a snake. Despite the fact that both Steve and Terri were present for the photo, it received negative feedback for similar reasons. Steve was clearly determined to share his love of animals with his children, regardless of public opinion.
9. Steve was bitten in the face by an angry python…
In 1991, on an Australian television program, a young Steve was discussing the difference between venomous and nonvenomous snakes. He had a python wrapped around his shoulders for the presentation and as he attempted to lift it off of him, it proceeded to bite him.
While the host is obviously caught completely by surprise, Steve keeps his calm in a situation that would scare the daylights out of most people. Steve fortunately had the foresight to bring a nonvenomous snake on air with him in case a mishap such as this were to occur.
8. … and on the hand by a crocodile
Steve was called in to capture and relocate a large crocodile that had wandered too far from it’s natural habitat. As he was trying to lower his rope around the crocodile’s neck, it quickly lunged out of the water and grabbed Steve by the hand, pulling him in to the murky waters. Luckily, it let go almost immediately and Steve walks away with naught but a bloody hand.
He eventually managed to get this wild reptile under control. While Steve suffered countless injuries during his career as a wildlife expert, this particular croc could have caused significantly more damage if it had not let Steve go. These type of close call situations really helped him appeal to a mass audience, as it was not only educational but very entertaining.
7. Steve saved Wes Mannion’s life from Graham the crocodile
Wes Mannion worked with Steve at the Australia Zoo for over 20 years, and has recounted the day Steve saved his life on several occasions. This particular re-telling by Wes provides an arm chair adrenaline rush. In 2001, Wes was attacked by a Saltwater crocodile named Graham. The toothy predator sunk his teeth in to Wes’ thigh and pulled him underwater. Wes recounts thinking he truly thought he was about to be eaten.
It was only thanks to Steve’s quick thinking that Wes was able to survive. Steve leaped on to Graham’s back and jammed a wooden stick in his mouth. This worked not only as a preventative biting measure, but also bought Wes enough time to get to safety.
6. Steve handled a black mamba, the world’s most dangerous snake
When a black mamba fatally attacked several inhabitants of an African village, Steve went and removed the 12-foot monster. This was an incredibly risky and brave move as the black mamba is the world’s most dangerous snake.
A single bite from a black mamba can be fatal in under 30 minutes, without immediate treatment from the specific anti-venom. Black mamba venom contains neurotoxins which impair nerve function. They are predators who pursue small animals and birds and are one of the fastest snakes, hitting reported speeds of up to 6.5 mph. When trapped or cornered they often bite in rapid succession, causing a quick on-set of the fatal symptoms. They are native to parts of Africa and dwell in a variety of lairs, including; woodlands, dense jungle, and rocky slopes.
5. Steve was attacked by a cassowary
Cassowaries are a large flightless bird native to the northern part of Australia. They are fruit eaters and vital to the ecological system of the rainforests in the Queensland area. The Australian rain forests may not survive without them. Steve, always eager to lend a helping hand, made it a mission to help save the species. But during an encounter with one of these flightless birds, Steve had to run quickly from a male cassowary to avoid an attack.
Currently the Australia Zoo is one of the leading conversationists for captive breeding of the Southern Cassowary in the world. Known to be extremely territorial, they will chase, peck, and claw at any unfortunate soul who wanders on to their land.
Male cassowary raise their young, as female cassowary mate with several partners during mating season. Their eggs are laid in several areas that the male then protects. There have been documented attacks by cassowary that were fatal or involved a variety of injuries.
4. Steve was bitten by a bearded dragon
Steve may have been a real life superhero. Unsurprisingly, he was bitten again, this time by a bearded dragon who went after his nose. Despite their name, bearded dragons are a type of small lizard, often smaller than your average iguana.
Working with and exploring some of the most dangerous wildlife on the planet came with incredible risk for Steve Irwin. In this particular case, Bearded dragons can pose less of a physical threat, and more of a bacterial one. They are common carriers of Salmonella, a dangerous bacterium that is often passed from reptiles to humans. The bearded dragon gets it’s name from the color of it’s throat, which turns black in stressful situations. The outcome gives the lizard it’s bearded appearance.
3. Steve was punched in the head by a tree-kangaroo
The tree-kangaroo is an omnivorous marsupial that lives exclusively on island nations such as New Guinea and Australia.
While filming in Indonesia, Steve wanted to find and feed a tree-kangaroo. They are not the biggest animals, but they to have a fierce temperament and have razor-sharp claws.
Steve, with help from a local guide, ventures deep into the jungle to find one of these adorable little creatures. When they inevitably find one, the tree kangaroo quickly takes the banana from Steve without hesitation. In classic Irwin fashion, he proceeds to try to befriend the roo as it eats. The tree kangaroo proceeds to hit Steve twice on the head. This was probably Steve’s least threatening encounter, as he walks away completely unscathed.
2. Steve never took himself too seriously
While Steve Irwin was known for being the Crocodile Whisperer, he had a great self-deprecating comedic style. If his feelings were ever truly hurt, he always kept it professional and never let it show. Steve had a big personality and his natural exuberance may have been off putting to some people.
When someone has a job they love, sometimes their passion is contagious in a good way. Steve made audiences take notice and did a good job at educating people about wildlife in general. Steve genuinely loved animals and wanted to keep doing what he did no matter what. He turned his criticisms in to a joke that he was in on: “And yet back here in my own country, some people find me a bit embarrassing. You know, there’s this kind of cringe, you know. Is it a cultural cringe?”
1. The video footage of his death has never been released to the public
There has been much public speculation around his death and how it happened. Over a decade later; theories are still widely being discussed. Like Elvis and Tupac, there are conspiracy theories about Steve still being alive and in hiding. Steve’s long-time cameraman and friend Justin Lyon’s said Steve’s last words were “I’m dying“ and very calmly spoken. Justin was underwater filming Steve when the brutal attack occurred.
Steve was filming a TV project, Ocean’s Deadliest, which was later released and is still available without the fatal footage. Steve Irwin predicted his own death at a young age. In 2007, in an interview on the program Enough Rope, Steve’s widow and frequent co-star Terri Irwin said Steve had told her he had a premonition he would die before the age of 40. He carried on with the topic and discussed his own death with her.
Do you have any Crocodile Hunter trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!
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