By Tamara Sevigny
Six years ago, as I prepared for my 6-month trip to Australia, I informed Krista, my 9-year-old sister, that I wouldn’t see her for a long time because I was going to study for a few months in the land down under. She didn’t say she would miss me or ask me not to go, she just looked at me, a little jealousy in her eyes, and exclaimed “can you get me Steve Irwin’s autograph?!”
The school I went to, Southern Cross University, was only a 4-hour drive to Beerwah, Queensland, where Australia Zoo is located. My friends and I were hoping to see Steve’s famous croc show. It was our third visit to the zoo before we actually saw him do the show and it was exciting! But we never caught Steve that day. He was a busy man and expertly ran into the employees only section seconds after the show.
Before heading home to the U.S., my friends and I took a final trip to the zoo. We weren’t lucky enough to see Steve perform the croc show again, but we did run into his wife Terri and daughter Bindi playing on the playground. Terri chatted with us for quite a while and told us some great stories about Steve’s trips to the U.S. where he would wear disguises and use back doors at the airports to avoid being bombarded by fans. She also told us of her chance meeting with Steve and how they came to know each other and married.
Terri was kind enough to take our photos for her and Steve to sign. So, even though we didn’t get to meet the famous Crocodile Hunter we did get that autograph for Krista.
At the zoo, we learned a lot about Steve and Australia’s wildlife and enjoyed the friendly, free wandering kangaroos.
The zoo started in 1970 when Steve’s father, Bob Irwin, an enthusiast of reptiles, moved his family to Queensland to start a small reptile park.
Steve lived with his family at the zoo and grew up with animals of all kinds, taking part in their daily routines, including feeding, care, and maintenance.
When Steve was old enough he volunteered with the Queensland Government’s East Coast Crocodile Management program. He spent years catching huge crocodiles single-handedly.
In 1991 Steve took over the zoo. Since then Australia Zoo has flourished and expanded. A chance reunion with his friend, television producer John Stainton, filming in the Zoo for a TV commercial, gave Steve the opportunity to show his talents to the world. They took a chance and made the first documentary, “The Crocodile Hunter” in 1992.
The series quickly became a popular program in the U.S. and worldwide.
That same year Steve married Terri Raines from Oregon. They met when Terri visited the zoo on vacation in Australia. They had two children, Bindi and Bob, and continued their quest to improve the quality of life for wildlife through education and conservation.
As many know, Steve was killed last month while filming off the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, (pronounced cans), Queensland. He swam above a stingray and the stingray’s poisonous barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart. He was 44 years old.
Steve’s educational programs live on. He taught millions of people around the world to respect wildlife and died doing what he loved. He was a fanatical conservationist and will not be quickly forgotten.
For information about Steve and also about making donations to his wildlife charities visit www.crocodilehunter.com.