Like most people, I only knew Steve Irwin through seeing him on TV and hearing a few interviews but I liked him.
He was “larger than life” always upbeat and used phrases like “Crikey” and “Blimey”. Some Australians cringed and saw him as an “Okker”, embarrassed that the world may think we all run around in khaki shorts wrestling crocodiles. Others saw him as “True Blue” the archetypal Australian that few of us will ever be.
After his death, it seems, everyone realised what a special person had been in their midst. Strange how often that happens.
He put his money where his mouth was. With the income from his documentaries and the zoo, he bought up parcels of land to preserve habitat. Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, which manages 3,450 acres of wildlife sanctuary and other large tracts of land throughout Australia were purchased for the sole purpose of preserving them as wildlife habitat.
Australia Zoo is the Irwin’s home and they say the staff and animals are like an extended family. You only have to visit the place to realise this is not just a publicity blurb. The grounds are immaculate. The workers are happy and friendly whether they are tending the gardens, picking up animal droppings, selling food or presenting one of the many shows. The animals seem very happy too. Their enclosures are huge and mimic their homelands. Their needs come first and viewing of the animals is scheduled around their daily routine.
It’s a couple of years since I’ve been there. We like to take our grandchildren when they come to visit. Next time I go I’ll try to take some pictures of their garden not just the grandkids, but I can’t promise.