Irwin was surrounded by nature and its varied inhabitants from birth. His father was a wildlife expert and his mother was dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. He too developed an adoration for living things, and on his sixth birthdaym he received a 12-foot long scrub python, which he named Fred. When Irwin was eight his parents started the small reptile park that would eventually become the Australia Zoo.
Irwin began to handle crocodiles at the age of nine, and eventually volunteered to trap crocodiles in populated areas and move them to his family's zoo. This task was just one facet of his ever-growing loyalty to wildlife conservation, specifically that of endangered species. Although his intelligence was undeniable, it was truly his passion for his field that made him a star.
Irwin's journey to fame truly began when he met an old friend who was filming a commercial at the zoo and offered to film a documentary on Irwin and his crocodiles. The Crocodile Hunter aired on the Discovery Channel two years later to great success, followed by the off-the-wall Crocodile Hunter series, in which Irwin dealt with poisonous snakes, thousand-pound elephants and twenty-foot crocodiles, just to name a few. Irwin continued to make other documentaries and later a feature film, Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.
Critics have claimed that Irwin and his shows were exploitative. Australian writer Germaine Greer wrote that Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress, and said regarding his death that The animal world has finally taken revenge. But while Irwin's personality may have been brash, he cared deeply for the natural world in which he lived, which he displayed not only through his enthusiasm but through his financial actions. As his popularity skyrocketed and his revenues grew, Irwin purchased huge portions of land in Australia, the United States, Fiji and Vanuatu, which he set aside to be like national parks.
Irwin also founded a charity, later renamed Wildlife Warriors Worldwide, about which he said, We want to do our bit for the environment. We have been called wildlife warriors and I reckon that pretty much sums us up. We're fighting to make a massive difference to wildlife and wilderness conservation, and we want to make people aware all over the world about the environment and just how precious it is all of it!
Wildlife Warriors Worldwide has run for four years and is now active in Australia, Asia and Africa. Irwin also founded the International Crocodile Rescue organization and the Lyn Irwin Memorial Fund, all proceeds of which go to the Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Regarding his own show he once said that Every cent we earn from Crocodile Hunter goes straight back into conservation. Every single cent, which, given the shows success, amounted to no small sum.
When he was four years old, his fathers parrot nearly bit Irwin's nose off, resulting in a lifelong phobia. But other than parrots, there didnt seem to be anything Irwin was afraid of, or anything he wouldnt do in the name of education and entertainment. In a radio interview Irwin once said, Born a wildlife warrior, die a wildlife warrior. While his death was a tragedy for which many mourn, it was how he would, in the end, have wanted to go.
Contributing writer Logan Giannini is a first year from Zumbrota, Minn. He majors in theatre.