Today’s Google Doodle celebrates late naturalist and documentary host Steve Irwin.
Saltwater crocodiles are an ancient species, unchanged for at millions of years, and today they’re the world’s largest living reptiles. The biggest males stretch out to 6 meters (23 feet) at full length and weigh up to 1,200 kg (2,600 pounds).
They’re enormous, they’re fast, and Steve Irwin wrestled his first one when he was nine years old (it wasn’t an adult, obviously, which is probably why Steve Irwin lived to be an adult).
Crocodile wrestling wasn’t a surprising milestone for a kid who got an 11-foot python for his sixth birthday and grew up helping his parents run a reptile park, then called Beerwah Reptile Park, in Queensland, Australia.
Irwin’s cheerful enthusiasm for potentially deadly wildlife started early and grew into a lifelong passion which he shared with his wife, his children, and millions of TV viewers around the world.
Before his rise to TV wildlife documentary stardom, Irwin managed Beerwah, which he later renamed the Australia Zoo, and spent his free time volunteering with the Queensland East Coast Crocodile Management Project, capturing saltwater crocodiles and relocating them to areas where they were less likely to come into contact with humans — the kind of encounter that too often ends poorly for either the human or the crocodile.
He met his wife, naturalist Terri Irwin, at the park in 1991, and they married the following year.
The Irwins came back from a romantic crocodile-trapping honeymoon with the footage that later became the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter, which aired in 1996. Australia’s wildlife and Irwin’s exuberance quickly made the show a hit — and a family project.
The Irwins’ two children, Bindi and Robert, grew up appearing on the show and learning wildlife handling, conservation, and enthusiastic love of animals from their parents. Both went on to have their own careers in conservation and public outreach.
“I have no fear of losing my life,” Irwin once said. “If I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.”
Steve Irwin’s Died In:
He died on September 4, 2006, in a fatal encounter with a stingray, which witnesses said appeared to have been accidentally cornered during the filming of a documentary entitled Ocean’s Deadliest.
His daughter Bindi was eight years old at the time, and his son Robert was three. But Terri, Bindi, and Robert Irwin have continued the family’s work, most recently with the debut of Crikey! It’s the Irwins.
“Today we continue his mission by working to overturn recent legislation in Queensland which allows crocodile egg harvesting from vulnerable crocs in the wild to support the commercial leather trade,” Terri Irwin told Google.
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