Stephen Robert Irwin, better known as the crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, was born to Lyn and Bob Irwin in Essendon, Victoria, on February 22, 1962. He became world-famous as a result of his popular Crocodile Hunter wildlife documentaries. He died on September 4, 2006, after being stung by a stingray in the waters of far north Queensland.
The popular 44-year-old international TV star, a finalist for Australian of the Year in 2004, was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas north of Cairns when he was stung.
Steve Irwin was an ardent wildlife and natural environment conservationist, buying hectares of land in many parts of the world to provide natural wildlife sanctuaries.
Steve Irwin seemed to have been more popular overseas early in his career as the Crocodile Hunter than he was in his own country.
He was described in 2003 by Australian TV interviewer Andrew Denton as an "Australian conservationist whose high-decibel, over-the-top personality has made him, with 200 million viewers in 35 countries — perhaps the most famous Australian in the world today."
Steve Irwin's father, Bob, was a lover of wildlife and when the Irwins moved to Queensland in 1970, the family started a reptile park on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Australia Zoo, at Beerwah, opened in April 1973.
In 1991 Lyn and Bob Irwin retired and turned over management of Australia Zoo to their son Steve Irwin when he was 21.
The first Crocodile Hunter documentary was made in 1992. Eventually more than 50 Crocodile Hunter TV episodes were filmed and shown all over the world, gaining recognition and fame for Steve Irwin.
A film, Crocodile Hunter: Collison Course, was made in 2002. While it did not receive critical acclaim, it was no doubt popular among Steve Irwin fans.
Steve Irwin always appeared in public and in his films attired in short-sleeved khaki shirts and khaki short pants, much like an adult boy scout. In fact, he projected much of a boy-who-never-grew-up image who led an adventurous life wrestling crocodiles and other wildlife. He always seemed to talk loudly and excitedly in a language that was colorfully Australian.
He brought the expression "Crikey!" to the world public as an exclamation of often childish amazement.
In a 2003 interview with Andrew Denton on the Australian ABC program Enough Rope (rebroadcast on September 4, 2006), Steve Irwin was asked if there was anything in his wardrobe that wasn't khaki. After a pause he said he had a pair of jeans. He also admitted to putting on a "penguin suit" for his wedding.
In a formal 2003 Canberra reception in honor of visiting US President George W Bush, Steve Irwin mixed with the formal-suited visitors — and chatted with the US President — in his trademark tie-less khaki. Crikey!
Having met her on an earlier visit to Australia Zoo, Steve Irwin married Terri Raines of Oregon, USA, in 1992.
Two children, Bindi and Bob, were born of the union.
No state funeral
Steve Irwin's family declined the offer by the Federal and Queensland State Governments of a state funeral.
A small, private funeral was held in the grounds of his beloved Australia Zoo at Beerwah on Queensland's Sunshine Coast on the evening of September 9, 2006, and the Crocodile Hunter laid to rest — without publicity or fanfare — "just like he would have wanted," his father Bob Irwin said, with family and friends around a camp fire telling stories...
Australia Zoo was closed to the public on September 10.
Off Alexandra Headland Beach on the Sunshine Coast, about 250 surfers formed a large circle on September 10 as a tribute to Steve Irwin. Flowers were placed in the water in his memory.