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Real life adventures of the Australian conservationist Steve Irwin, the curator of Australia Zoo in Queensland, as he studied and captured crocodiles, either to relocate them or to take them for his zoo. Oh, and he also sometimes studied (but rarely captured) snakes.
The show was full of physical action as Irwin and his mates jumped on crocodiles all at once and restrained them with duct tape. He was also shown hand-feeding crocodiles, and distracting them while the rest of his staff raided the crocodiles' nest for the eggs to incubate.
The show offered an unbeatable combination of old-fashioned daring derring-do with a strong conservationist message. It also gave parodists a field day, and (perhaps unintentionally) did much to contribute to the stereotype of the "Australian Naturalist" as a khaki-clad testosterone-fueled adrenaline junkie whose passion for up-close-and-personal encounters with large, dangerous, or deadly animals bordered on protracted suicide.
Irwin made several other movies with conservationist themes, enlivened by his bubbly Larrikin personality and his Catch Phrase, "Crikey!", and he soon became perhaps the world's most visible and charismatic spokesman for the environment, filling a role left empty by the death of Jacques Cousteau. Irwin even produced and starred in The Movie of his TV show, Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, in which a crocodile accidentally swallows a top-secret government satellite that falls to earth, and Irwin and his wife Terri are unwittingly caught in the middle as they try to film their TV show.
Despite all the crocodile antics, they were not the ones to kill him. Irwin died in a freak accident with a stingray while diving. He was mourned worldwide. And, in a stunning case of general oddity, many Aussies went on stingray-butchering rampages in the name of one of the most famous animal lovers in history. They were called out on this, as people said that that's not what Steve Irwin would have wanted. Perhaps even more bizarrely (though far less disturbingly), Philadelphia Phillies fans used Irwin as a rallying cry during their successful 2008 World Series run against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Irwin's legacy lives on in the family he leaves behind: his wife Terri, who often served as his sidekick on Crocodile Hunter, their son Robert and their daughter Bindi, who continues her father's work in the capacity of a "junior animal activist." Bindi recently starred in the Direct to Video film Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove.
Irwin and the show provide examples of the following:
- Admiring the Abomination: He never let down his guard around very dangerous animals, but he also seemed to be gleeful when he saw or handled them.
- Author Existence Failure: RIP Steve.
- Awesome Aussie
- Awesome but Impractical: Averted -- he physically wrestled crocs because it was a less stressful method of handling them, not because it made for good telly.
- Badass: Steve of course!
- Badass Family: Terri's as much of an activist as Steve was. And Bindi, rather than face traumatization, went right to work in her late Father's footsteps as an activist and a animal-related TV show host.
- Big Fun: Steve was slightly overweight, which lent this element to his enthusiastic personality.
- Canine Companion: The Irwin's beloved dog Sui.
- Catch Phrase: Crikey!
- Fluffy Tamer
- Friend to All Living Things
- Happily Married: Steve and Terri.
- Keet: Personality-wise, Steve was very much this, both on and off-camera.
- Love At First Sight: Both Steve and Terri say they felt this the instant their eyes met; Terri relates that her first thought was, "He's got to be taken," and Steve - who was in the middle of feeding a crocodile at the time - was so spellbound by her he almost got eaten himself.
- Nature Documentary
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The show practically existed to avert this trope, showing the audience how cool lizards, snakes, and of course, crocodiles could be.
- True Companions: The zoo staff to each other.