Steve Irwin, better known as The Crocodile Hunter, was an Australian zookeeper and animal expert. Until his tragic passing in 2006, Irwin worked tirelessly to educate and advocate for animals and nature conservation. Here are 44 wild facts about the late, great Steve Irwin.
1. Early Bird
Irwin had been around animals almost all of his life. As a present on his sixth birthday, he was given a scrub python. By the age of nine, he was handling crocodiles under the supervision of his father.
2. Wild About Animals
Irwin began running what would become the Australia Zoo in 1991. Humble beginnings for someone who would be world famous in less than 10 years.
3. Love Birds
The first episode of The Crocodile Hunter featured Steve and his new wife Terri trapping crocodiles on their honeymoon. Not what most couples dream of when they think "honeymoon".
4. Super Star
By 1998, Irwin’s show The Crocodile Hunter had become ridiculously popular in the United States. It was broadcast in over 130 different countries around the world. How many other shows can claim that kind of global appeal?
5. Movie Star
In 2002, Irwin starred in his only feature film, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, which won a Young Artist Award for the Best Family Feature Film: Comedy. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out, fans of Steve will particularly enjoy it.
Irwin was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal in 2001. The medal honored the crocodile hunter for his service to global conservation and Australian tourism. We're sure Steve was thrilled to be recognized by the country he loved.
7. Polly Says "Boo"
Despite working with dangerous animals like crocodiles and snakes, Irwin’s greatest fear was reportedly parrots. Of course the man who hangs out with apex predators is afraid of a small bird.
8. Daddy’s Little Girl
Irwin's daughter Bindi Sue got her name from his Staffordshire bull terrier (named Sui) and his crocodile (named Bindi). Sui and Bindi were two of Irwin's favorite animals, so it makes sense that he would want to give his beloved daughter a little piece of them, too.
9. Active Dad
He was a big fan of Australian rules football, and also trained in the martial arts system of Gaidojutsu. Irwin liked to stay in shape because his job was very physically demanding. That's right, apparently you need to be in shape if you want to wrestle crocs all day.
Irwin has a species of snapping turtle named after him: Elseya Irwini, or "Irwin's turtle". And this is no honorary naming: Irwin actually discovered this new species of turtle himself while working on his show. Don’t get too close though, they’re not as friendly as Steve was.
11. Irwin Week
During the "Australia Week" celebrations in January 2006—less than a year before his tragic demise—Irwin appeared at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. This was at the height of his fame, and audiences were thrilled to see their hero in person. In fact, Irwin's renown had already made his Australia Zoo a top Australian tourist destination.
12. Like Father, Like Son
We've already talked about Irwin's daughter Bindi Sue, but Irwin also had a son with his wife Terri, Robert Irwin. Robert, who is now a teenager, acts as a television personality just like his dad, and loves wildlife photography.
13. Croc Hunter, Indeed
When Irwin was just getting his start, he was a volunteer for Queensland's East Coast Crocodile Management program. While there, he captured over 100 crocodiles. That’s a lot of crocs!
Irwin's father Bob was a wildlife expert who taught him a lot of what there was to know about Australia's animals. Meanwhile, his mother Lyn was a wildlife rehabilitator. When the family moved from just outside Melbourne to the state of Queensland, Bob and Lyn set up a reptile park. Irwin was around crocodiles from a very young age.
The Australia Zoo, which Irwin and his wife Terri owned and operated, was actually founded by Irwin's parents. The zoo is still operating to this day, and many of Irwin's fans flocked there after his passing to pay tribute to the enthusiastic, animal-loving man.
16. Put in the Work
As a child, Irwin would take part in the feeding of the animals at the zoo, as well as helping with the general maintenance of both the park and the animals. The park would go on to change names a few times before Irwin renamed it the "Australia Zoo" in 1998. His surviving family members still manage the zoo.
17. Hometown Glory
Irwin grew up in Beerwah, Australia. The area isn't all that big in terms of population, as the resident number hovers around the 6,000 mark. Due to Irwin’s accomplishments, he became a national icon, and was honored in his hometown by having a street named after him, Steve Irwin Way, after his passing. Ironically, much like his life was, this specific road is quite dangerous, and there have been many accidents on it over the years.
18. Making Waves
To go along with the road being named after Irwin, he also had an important ship named after him. The MY Steve Irwin is the 194-foot flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and is used when the organization takes action against whaling and other illicit fishery activities. This group stands up for the well-being of aquatic wildlife, and Irwin would be proud of their efforts to protect Australia’s sea creatures.
19. Big Fan
Irwin was known to be a passionate Brisbane Broncos fan, a rugby team based out of the Queensland capital. One time in particular, Irwin showed up to the team’s training camp and asked to tackle the largest player on the team at the time, Shane Webcke. Predictably, Irwin was destroyed by Webcke, but despite being crushed, he was reportedly as happy and jolly as could be. Yep, that sounds like Steve.
20. Movie Star, Part II
Irwin made a cameo appearance in Dr. Dolittle 2 alongside Eddie Murphy, and he did not disappoint. While Irwin wasn’t going to be taking home any Oscars for his performance, his likability still shone out through the screen. When Irwin appeared in the film, his passion for animals was clear, and you can't help but smile when you see him in his trademark khaki outfit.
21. Value Added
Irwin is still one of the most significant personalities in wildlife preservation today, and had a net worth of around $10 million at the time of his passing in 2006.
22. Negative Press
Irwin once fed a crocodile at his zoo while holding his newborn son in his other hand. Some people claimed that Irwin was in fact guilty of child abuse for this stunt, as he put his baby’s life in jeopardy. However, Irwin denied the allegations that he was harming his child, stating that Robert was never in any danger whatsoever. The authorities agreed with Irwin, and didn't lay any charges.
Irwin purchased large pieces of land in Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the United States to preserve endangered species and wildlife with the money he earned from his show. Truly a selfless human being.
24. Biblical Legacy
After Irwin's passing, The CEO of RSPCA called him the “modern-day Noah".
25. Cold Feet
Even though he was known to wrestle crocodiles on the regular, Irwin has said that his scariest moment was getting married, and that he was sweating bullets during the whole event.
26. Water Wings
When Irwin wasn't out catching crocs, he loved jet skiing. He was also a certified diver and would often dive recreationally. In 2003, he and the divers in his production crew even assisted in a search and rescue effort for a group of divers who had gone missing in Mexico.
27. Martial Artist
Irwin loved mixed martial arts competitions, and trained with Greg Jackson before his death. Jackson’s gym has produced some of the best MMA fighters of the last 20 years, so Steve was in good hands.
Irwin once appeared in a hilarious ESPN television commercial. In the commercial, the always-enthusiastic Steve is surprised by the big green Gator mascot for the University of Florida, and promptly wrestles it to the ground in an ESPN studio hallway.
29. Party City
His popularity has led to him becoming a frequent character at costume and Halloween parties in both his native Australia and the United States.
30. Court Battle
In June of 2004, Irwin was sued by an Australian court, and was accused of interfering in the lives of animals such as penguins and whales during a documentary on Antarctica. Eventually, he was acquitted. They probably realized that if he changed their lives, it was for the better.
At the tender age of six, Irwin caught his first venomous snake, a Common Brown. In fact, Irwin was often late for class because he’d make his mother stop on the way to school in order to rescue various animals.
In 2002, he founded the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, which was later renamed The Wildlife Warriors. The foundation was formed in an effort to educate people on the importance of protecting injured, threatened, and endangered wildlife.
In July 2006, Irwin came up with a 10-year plan that envisioned the future of his Australia Zoo. This plan helped solidify his lifelong conservation efforts—and thank goodness for that, because Irwin passed on just two months later.
As Irwin’s television popularity grew, it also sparked growth in his “at-home” work. The once-meager Australia Zoo is now almost 76 acres, and home to hundreds of local and exotic animals.
35. International Love
In 1991, a young Terri Raines, Irwin's future wife, was visiting wildlife rehabilitation centers in Australia and decided to visit Steve's zoo. Both Terri and Steve described it as love at first sight, and Terri was completely enamored with Steve's huge heart. As she said, "I thought there was no one like this anywhere in the world. He sounded like an environmental Tarzan, a larger-than-life superhero guy". They got engaged after just four months, and were married in 1992. They were still together when Irwin died.
36. One Fateful Day
On September 4, 2006, Irwin was filming the documentary Ocean's Deadliest. When there was a break in filming, Irwin went snorkelling to film some footage for his daughter Bindi Sue's TV series. It was there that Irwin came across the stingray who would violently take his life.
Of all the aggressive, dangerous animals that Irwin has dealt with, the creature that ended up taking his life, the stingray, is normally docile. In fact, Irwin’s death was said to be only the third known fatal stingray attack in Australia since 1945. Worldwide, only about one or two fatalities from stingrays are reported per year.
38. Burn After Reading
Although there was video of the incident, Irwin's family rightly fought to keep the footage private. The only people who viewed the film were members of the Queensland State Police Department; all copies were destroyed after the investigation, and any supposed "leaks" of the video online have been hoaxes.
The only man who was with Irwin at the moment of his passing was cameraman Justin Lyons. Lyons believes the stingray must have seen Irwin's shadow and thought it was a tiger shark, one of the stingray's natural predators. When asked about any potentially surviving footage of the attack being leaked, Lyons was adamant that it should never see the light of day. "Never," he said. "Out of respect for his family, I would say never".
40. Revenge Isn't Sweet
To make his passing even more tragic, after Irwin's fatal accident a number of stingrays were found dead with their tails cut off on Queensland beaches. It was speculated to be the revenge of fans, but it's safe to say this is never what Steve would have wanted.
41. Best Mates
Wes Mannion was Steve Irwin's best friend, and worked with him on The Crocodile Hunter. Irwin also once saved Mannion's life: In 2001, an angry crocodile attacked and bit Mannion hard in the thigh. Irwin jumped in with a "safety stick" kept in the enclosure and subdued the croc, allowing Mannion to escape and live another day. We can't imagine the pain Mannion was going through at his best mate's funeral, knowing it could have been him in Steve's place.
American satellite and cable television channel Animal Planet ended The Crocodile Hunter with a series finale titled "Steve's Last Adventure” after Steve perished. It was three hours long and contained many of Irwin's adventures around the world.
43. A Touching Tribute
Both Bindi Sue and Robert Irwin carry on their father's legacy with their own conservation work. Bindi Sue was only eight years old when Irwin passed on, but his memory lives on in her. On September 4, 2018, on the 12th anniversary of his passing, she posted a touching tribute to her late, great father. It was an image of her and Steve together with a crocodile, and she captioned the photo "Together Forever".
Likewise, in 2018 his widow Terri tearfully confessed that she has never completely gotten over Irwin's death. "You don't ever get over grief," she said. "I'm just lonely for Steve".
44. For Your Eyes Only
Irwin's funeral ceremony and burial was at the Australia Zoo, and not accessible to the public. At the end of the service, Irwin's gear truck was loaded up and driven around the arena as a symbolic goodbye, all while the staff at the zoo spelled out "Crikey" in yellow flowers. To this day, his gravestone is not available for public viewing. Rest in peace, Steve.