Wild Animals Pictures For Kids BiographyIrwin loved mixed martial arts competitions and trained with Greg Jackson in the fighting/grappling system of Gaidojutsu.
Like many Australians, he was an avid cricket fan. This was seen during his visit to Sri Lanka where he played cricket with some local children and said "I love cricket" and "It's a shame we have to go catch some snakes now". This was seen during the Crocodile Hunter episode "Island of the Snakes".
Having grown up in Essendon, Irwin was a fan of the Essendon Bombers, an Australian rules football club in the Australian Football League. Irwin took part in an Australian Rules football promotion in Los Angeles as part of "Australia Week" in early 2006. After his death, a picture of Irwin wearing a Bombers Guernsey was shown by ESPN.com in their Bottom 10 ranking of the worst Division I FBS college football teams after Week 1 of the season in tribute to him.
Having lived in Queensland most of his life, Irwin was also a fan of rugby league. As a teenager, he played for the Caloundra Sharks as a second-rower, and as an adult he was known to be a passionate Brisbane Broncos fan and was involved with the club on several occasions. On one occasion after turning up to training he asked if he could tackle the largest player, Shane Webcke. Despite being thrown to the ground and looking like he'd been crushed he was jovial about the experience. Irwin laughingly shared the experience with the Queensland State of Origin squad before the 2006 series. Irwin also supported rugby union, being a fan of the national team, the Wallabies. He once wore a Wallaby jersey during a demonstration at the zoo. A behind-the-scenes episode of The Crocodile Hunter showed Irwin and the crew finding a petrol station in a remote part of Namibia to watch the Wallabies defeat France in the 1999 Rugby World Cup Final. Irwin was also a talented surfer.
MY Steve Irwin approaching Melbourne in February 2008
A controversial incident occurred during a public show on 2 January 2004, when Irwin carried his one-month-old son, Bob, in his arm while hand-feeding a chicken carcass to Murray, a 3.8-metre (12 ft 6 in) saltwater crocodile. The infant was close to the crocodile, and comparisons were made in the press to Michael Jackson's dangling his son outside a German hotel window. In addition, some child welfare groups, animal rights groups, and some of Irwin's television viewers criticised his actions as irresponsible and tantamount to child abuse. Irwin apologised on the US NBC Today Show. Both he and his wife publicly stated that Irwin was in complete control of the situation, as he had dealt with crocodiles since he was a small child, and based on his lifetime of experience neither he nor his son was in any danger. He also showed footage of the event shot from a different angle, demonstrating that they were much farther from the crocodile than they had appeared in the publicised clip. Terri Irwin said their child was in no more danger than one being taught to swim. No charges were filed; according to one journalist, Irwin told officials he would not repeat the action. The incident prompted the Queensland government to change its crocodile-handling laws, banning children and untrained adults from entering crocodile enclosures.
In June 2004, allegations were made that he disturbed wildlife (namely whales, seals and penguins) while filming a documentary, Ice Breaker, in Antarctica. The matter was subsequently closed without charges being laid.
After questions arose in 2003 about Irwin being paid $175,000 worth of taxpayers' money to appear in a television advertisement and his possible political ties, Irwin told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that he was a conservationist and did not choose sides in politics. His comments describing Australian Prime Minister John Howard as the "greatest leader in the world" earned him scorn in the media.
Irwin was criticised for having an unsophisticated view of conservation in Australia that seemed more linked to tourism than to the problems Australia faces as a continent. In response to questions of Australia's problems with overgrazing, salinity, and erosion, Irwin responded, "Cows have been on our land for so long that Australia has evolved to handle those big animals." The Sydney Morning Herald concluded with the opinion that his message was confusing and amounted to "eating roos and crocs is bad for tourism, and therefore more cruel than eating other animals".
Criticism of Irwin's career following his death came from Dan Mathews, vice-president of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Comparing Irwin to a "cheap reality TV star", Mathews accused him of "antagonising frightened wild animals ... a very dangerous message to send to children", contrasted his methods with the behaviour of "a responsible conservationist like Jacques Cousteau", and said it was "no shock at all that Steve Irwin should die provoking a dangerous animal." The son of Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel Cousteau—also a producer of wildlife documentaries—took issue with Irwin's "very, very spectacular, dramatic way of presenting things" and suggested instead that "You don't touch nature, you just look at it." Jacques Cousteau's grandson and Jean-Michel's nephew, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., on the other hand, called Irwin "a remarkable individual"; describing the Ocean's Deadliest project (on which he worked along with Irwin), Philippe said, "I think why Steve was so excited about it that we were looking at these animals that people think of as, you know, dangerous and deadly monsters, and they're not. They all have an important place in the environment and in the world. And that was what his whole message was about."
On 4 September 2006, Irwin was killed at the age of 44 while snorkelling at Batt Reef (part of the Great Barrier Reef) near Port Douglas, Queensland. He was in the area filming a documentary, Ocean's Deadliest, and during a period of bad weather, he decided to film some shallow water shots for his daughter Bindi's television programme (Bindi the Jungle Girl). Irwin approached a stingray allegedly 8 ft wide in chest-deep water from behind in order to film it swimming away. According to the only witness to the attack, the fish reacted to Irwin as if a shark was attacking, striking him several hundred times in the body with its tail spine in a few seconds. Irwin initially believed he only had a punctured lung but the spine had pierced his heart and he bled out. The ray's behavior appeared to have been a defensive response to being boxed in. Crew members aboard Irwin's boat administered CPR and rushed him to shore, but medical staff pronounced him dead at the scene.
Irwin's death is believed to be the only fatality from a stingray ever captured on video. A copy of the footage was reviewed by the Queensland state police, but eventually, all copies of the video were reportedly destroyed at the request of Irwin's family. Production was completed on Ocean's Deadliest, which was broadcast in the US on the Discovery Channel on 21 January 2007. The documentary was completed with footage shot in the weeks following the accident, but without including any mention of Irwin's accidental death.
News of Irwin's death prompted reactions around the world. Then-Prime Minister John Howard expressed "shock and distress" at the death, saying that "Australia has lost a wonderful and colourful son." Queensland's then-Premier Peter Beattie remarked that Irwin would "be remembered as not just a great Queenslander, but a great Australian". The Australian federal parliament opened on 5 September 2006 with condolence speeches by both Howard and the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley. Flags at the Sydney Harbour Bridge were lowered to half mast in honour of Irwin. In the days following Irwin's death, reactions dominated Australian online news sources, talk-back radio programmes, and television networks. In the United States, where Irwin had appeared in over 200 Discovery Network television programmes, special tributes appeared on the Animal Planet channel, as well as on CNN and major TV talk shows. Thousands of Irwin's fans visited Australia Zoo after his death, paying their respects and bringing flowers, candles, stuffed animals and messages of support.
In the weeks following Irwin's death, at least ten stingrays were found dead and mutilated on the beaches of Queensland, with their tails cut off, prompting speculation as to whether they might have been killed by fans of Irwin as an act of revenge, although according to the chairman of the Queensland fishing information service, Sunfish, anglers regularly cut the tails off accidentally caught stingrays to avoid being stung. Michael Hornby, a friend of Irwin and executive director of his Wildlife Warrior fund, condemned any revenge killings, saying that "We just want to make it very clear that we will not accept and not stand for anyone who's taken a form of retribution. That's the last thing Steve would want."
Funeral and memorial services
Family and friends of Irwin held a private funeral service in Caloundra on 9 September 2006. Irwin was buried in a private ceremony at Australia Zoo later that same day; the grave site is inaccessible to the zoo's visitors. Prime Minister Howard and Queensland Premier Beattie had offered to hold a state funeral, but Irwin's family decided this would not be appropriate and—in the words of his father, Bob Irwin—he would have preferred to be remembered as an "ordinary bloke".
The "Crocoseum" at Australia Zoo, where Steve Irwin's memorial service was held.
On 20 September, a public memorial service, introduced by Russell Crowe, was held in Australia Zoo's 5,500-seat Crocoseum; this service was broadcast live throughout Australia, the United States, the UK, Germany, and Asia, and it is estimated to have been seen by over 300 million viewers worldwide. The memorial included remarks by Prime Minister Howard; Irwin's father (Bob) and daughter (Bindi); his associates Wes Mannion and John Stainton; and celebrities from Australia and around the world (including Hugh Jackman, Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, David Wenham, Kelly Ripa and Larry King). Anthony Field of The Wiggles partly hosted the service, often sharing the screen with various animals, from koalas to elephants. Australian music star John Williamson sang True Blue, which was Irwin's favourite song. In a symbolic finish to the service, Irwin's truck was loaded up with gear and driven out of the arena for the last time as Williamson sang. As a final tribute, Australia Zoo staff spelled out Irwin's catchphrase "Crikey" in yellow flowers as Irwin's truck was driven from the Crocoseum for the last time to end the service.