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Series / Crocodile Hunter

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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 rope and 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 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 and documentaries with conservationist themes, enlivened by his bubbly Larrikin personality and his Catchphrase, "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, The 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.

There were also a few spin-off series. The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, frequently abbreviated by Steve himself to Croc Diaries, was focused more on the general day-to-day work around the zoo and the personal lives of both Steve and some zoo personnel. Croc Files, on the other hand, was aimed at children and featured Steve and Terri discussing various wildlife topics, intermixed with fun facts and footage of Steve interacting with animals.

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 have enthusiastically continued their father's work. Bindi has starred in the Direct to Video film Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove, and had her own kids' show, Bindi's Bootcamp, which ran from 2012 to 2015. Nowadays, Robert Irwin is most well-known for his appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where many people have noted that his excitement and enthusiasm for animals is very similar to his father.

In October 2018, Terri, Bindi, and Robert started a new show on Animal Planet, Crikey! It's the Irwins. The show, which has more in common with Croc Diaries than The Crocodile Hunter, follows the family's day-to-day work at Australia Zoo as well as their adventures around the world doing conservation work, intermixed with archive footage of Steve.

The Irwins and their film and television work provide examples of the following:

  • Adam Westing: A slight example in The Movie as it's scripted and Steve and Terri kinda come off as somewhat oblivious (almost to Inspector Gadget levels) to what is actually going on in the plot of the film.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Steve never let down his guard around very dangerous animals, but he was always excited to see or handle them.
  • Arch-Enemy: Graham is one of the oldest, meanest, and most territorial crocodiles at Australia Zoo, and he has a long and illustrious history among zoo staff. Steve captured him from the wild in 1988, and the Australia Zoo website posits that Graham still resents Steve for this, and by extension the entire staff of the zoo. In the following years, he doubled in size from six feet in length to over eleven and bit Steve's hand, forcing Steve to body-slam his head to get free, and later grabbed Wes's leg, Steve's right-hand man, which necessitated surgery and several weeks of recovery. Graham's reputation was played up in the very first episode of Crikey! It's the Irwins, which had a segment about Steve's son Robert's training for his first solo crocodile feed at age fourteen. In a bit of irony, the feeding was to be performed in front of a live audience in the Crocoseum with Graham. Wes was certain Graham could tell Robert is Steve's son, and that Graham would be all too happy to get him, too.
  • Awesome Aussie: Steve handled snakes and reptiles from early childhood, captured his first crocodile when he was nine (and it wasn't a little one, either), and spent the greater part of his twenties living in the bush for months at a time, trapping and relocating crocodiles largely on his own. And then the show came along, showcasing all of his skill with wildlife and crocodilians for the world to see.
  • Badass Family:
    • Terri's as much of an activist as Steve was- before they met, she ran her own wildlife rescue in her home state of Oregon, with a focus on cougars. 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. Robert's become quite the wildlife photographer- a hobby he shares with his late father -and has been working his way up to getting down and dirty with the crocodiles and other heavy-hitters of the zoo, under the guidance of Wes Mannion, Steve's oldest friend. To this day, the whole family still traps and wrangles crocodiles for research, just like Steve did.
    • On 25th March 2020, Bindi married her longtime boyfriend Chandler Powell, who has, apparently, thrown himself into working with the family with gusto. He's so badass that apparently he jumped into a crocodile pool at the first chance he got.
  • Better with Non-Human Company: An extremely mild example. Steve had no trouble making friends everywhere he went, but he always tended to be most comfortable in the bush with animals, and he had an uncommon intuition with wildlife and the wilderness that was showcased in his documentary work. Steve and Me shows that he was on the shy side whenever he wasn't out in the wilderness or working with animals, but he began to show the "grumpy" side of this trope near the end of his life after several bouts of negative media attention.
    "Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first."
  • Big Fun: Steve was slightly overweight, which lent this element to his enthusiastic personality. Not that he was weak, or harmless- this was a man who wrestled crocodiles for a living. His son, Robert, seems to be built much the same way - large and strong.
  • Canine Companion
    • The Irwins' beloved Staffordshire bull terrier Sui regularly accompanied the family on their adventures and was a common sight in many Crocodile Hunter shows until her death from cancer at age 15. Like Chili, Steve's first dog, she knew her way around the bush and helped Steve catch feral pigs as bait for the crocodile traps.
    • Before Sui, Steve had a dog in his early twenties that he named Chili, a stray he met while living out in the bush catching crocodiles. Chili loved to help Steve hunt pigs, but she was accidentally shot by a local while she was taking a pig down, when he was trying to aim for the pig. Steve talked about her a bit in "The Steve Irwin Story", and you can see him holding back tears the whole time.
    • As of Crikey! It's the Irwins, the Irwin family has a pug named Stella who enjoys making her rounds through the zoo, and even has her own small line of merch at the Australia Zoo store. As is common with pugs, however, she's more The Ditz than a croc-hunter.
  • Catchphrase: Several, including:
    • "Crikey!"
    • "Danger, danger, danger!"
    • "Gorgeous."
  • Dented Iron: As Steve got older, it became clear that his work had taken a toll on his body. On top of his many scars and injuries from animals, he also did a lot of construction work around his house and the fledgling Australia Zoo himself, ranging from building fences and taking trees down, to operating a backhoe, pouring concrete (which he got burns from), and milling his own timber. He usually shrugged off his injuries if he didn't think they were serious, pushing through until he finished the job, and would often rig up spotlights so he could work into the night. An accident during a construction project damaged a disc in his neck, and he permanently damaged his knee and a tendon in his shoulder wrangling crocodiles, which actually barred him from his surfing hobby. According to the special "Crikey! What an Adventure", Steve had confessed to his father a few months before his death that he was in constant pain. Despite all this, he kept trucking on, wrangling crocodiles, climbing trees and cliffs, and even took up MMA fighting as a replacement for surfing.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Played for laughs in an anecdote recounted in Steve and Me. While the Irwins were on tour for Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, Steve tried to take their publicist, Andrew Bernstein, out clubbing to help him pick up some girls, since Andrew didn't have a girl in his life and Steve was apparently a Chick Magnet. Andrew tried to gently tell Steve that he liked women, but didn't like women, but Terri ended up having to explain to Steve that Andrew was trying to say he's gay. Steve's eyes widened, and when they spoke to Andrew next, Steve said, "Andrew, don't worry about it, blokes love me. We'll go out and I'll get you blokes." Andrew thought it was hilarious and the two became friends.
  • Fingore: Steve regularly injured his hands and fingers working with crocodiles and other wildlife.
    • In an episode of The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, Steve and his team were dispatched to relocate a large number of very large, very aggressive crocodiles in a relatively short amount of time. One crocodile lashed out during release, injuring Steve's finger. He at first thought it was just dislocated and yanked on his finger to try and put it back in place, the finger making cracking sounds that will set your teeth on edge, only for him to then realize that it was actually broken. Since the team still had a lot of crocodiles to deal with and there was no time to get to a hospital for what Steve considered to be a minor inconvenience, he just had the broken finger taped to a nearby one (which really sin't all that different from what they actually do to fix them) and went on his merry way. And that's not even the worst thing that happened in that episode!
    • When Steve was feeding Graham, one of the meanest crocodiles at Australia Zoo, the crocodile bit down on his hand. He only managed to get himself free by essentially body slamming Graham's head.
  • Fire of Comfort: According to Steve and Me, Terri's best times with Steve were all spent sitting around a campfire in the bush, sharing stories and generally enjoying each others' company. Additionally, Steve's go-to method of calming down, especially as the media began to intervene more and more in his and his family's lives, was to build a big campfire in his backyard and stare into it.
  • First-Person Smartass: Terri narrates most episodes of The Crocodile Hunter and Croc Diaries alongside Steve, and in contrast to Steve's "straighter" narration, hers definitely has some snark in it.
    • "Wild in the USA": "Good job, Steve! We only circled the Sheraton [Grand Hotel] for one hour."
    • An episode of Croc Diaries had Steve's team catching a croc in the mud. As Steve emerges covered head to toe in mud carrying the subdued croc, Terri narrates something to the effect of, "You guys have sent us a lot of fan mail asking who does our laundry. Well... guess who." Even worse is the fact that Steve has been known to collect animal droppings and stow them away in his shirt pocket, just so he can show the camera what he found.
  • Fish out of Water: The first two episodes of The Crocodile Hunter showcase both Steve and Terri out of their respective elements. For the pilot, Terri caught and relocated crocodiles for the first time out in the bush, rather than going on their honeymoon in the Pacific northwest, no less. She spent most of the trip some level of terrified and afraid either she or Steve was going to get killed, and the first time she tried using the dunny in the bush (read: squatting over a bush), she found a highly aggressive snake and needed Steve's help getting it out of their campsite. The first proper episode of the series, "Wild in the USA", had the couple flying out to the United States, with Steve navigating the big city for the first time and getting dragged around by his wife shopping. He looked perpetually wide-eyed and uncomfortable whenever he was in the city (or around mammalian predators), and when he found some fancy hiking boots in Saks Fifth Avenue that he liked, he kept sniff-testing them in case they were secondhand. And of course, he wore his khakis everywhere, including to a fancy filmmakers' party, sticking out even more.
  • Fluffy Tamer
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Unlike all of Steve's other work, which either focuses on wildlife, Steve himself, his zoo, or his family, "Ghosts of War" is about him searching for wreckages of warplanes from the Pacific theatre of World War II.
  • Friend to All Living Things
    • Something he was famous for, though it's debatable how much the animals thought of him as a friend. According to the camera crew who witnessed his death, his last words were basically telling them that the stingray didn't mean to sting him (technically, though, he was right) meaning that he held this attitude even as he bled to death from his wound.
    • In a mild subversion, Steve noted that he felt uncomfortable around parrots- he would still protect them, but he found them too unpredictable compared to reptiles.
  • Generation Xerox: Rob clearly resembles Steve more and more as he grows up, but Steve and Terri's Love at First Sight story is repeated about twenty years later with the genders switched: A young American named Chandler Powell was an active fan of Steve, met up with Bindi at Australia Zoo by chance and hit it off perfectly, and then jumped into the croc pool at first chance. Rather fittingly, Chandler's from Florida. They got married at the zoo in March 2020.
  • Happily Married: Steve and Terri were passionately in love from the moment they met, united in their love of wildlife conservation. And while Steve tragically did pass away, Terri herself never remarried. When asked why didn't she, she simply said she already had her happy ever after with Steve.
  • The Insomniac: According to Steve and Me, Steve was a visionary workaholic who usually only slept around four hours a night. Shortly after they married, Steve would frequently do heavy construction work on the fledgling Australia Zoo from sunup until well after dark, rigging up spotlights so he could keep going. Later on, he'd get up to check on his zoo himself, even after gaining a staff numbering north of 200, and would work into the night on his future plans for the zoo. Even on family vacations, he'd still get up at the crack of dawn to go for walks and scope out places to see.
  • Irony: Everyone assumed Steve would eventually get killed by an animal, and he was... but not during one of his crazy stunts, but in a random freak accident that could have happened to anyone.
  • Keet: Steve was excitable and jovial both on and off-camera. He frequently got bored and ran off to find wildlife during lulls in shooting, and was dreaming up new projects for both his conservation and filming careers even before he finished the ones he was already working on. To the surprise of no one, Steve's parents said in "The Steve Irwin Story" that as a child, he bordered on hyperactive, was never where he was supposed to be, and was always running off to climb trees, or catch snakes and lizards.
  • The Kiddie Ride: There is one land rover ride with a fiberglass mannequin of the late Steve Irwin on it. Each of the rovers has a plaque attached saying that it was built in memory of Steve. A photo of the ride is currently being used to illustrate said trope's page.
  • Last-Minute Baby Naming: Bindi Sue Irwin was named on the delivery table. Steve and Terri hadn't thought of any girl names since they were convinced she would be a boy. They named her after Bindi the Mama Bear crocodile and Sui the family dog.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Steve only ever seemed to wear one outfit on camera- a khaki shirt and shorts, work boots, and a watch. In his defense, khakis are very practical and durable for the kind of rough-and-tumble work he did. However, he went diving in his khakis, wore khakis to award dinners and other formal events, and even tried to wear them to Antarctica before he finally had to put on a coat and long pants. It's quite strange to see him wearing jeans and long sleeves in the US National Parks episode of Steve's Great Escapes.
  • 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. Terri was visiting the Australia Zoo (then called Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park) with a friend, and a photo was taken of Terri and Steve together shortly after this first encounter. Steve proposed to her on their fourth meeting, only four months after they first met. They were married four months later.
  • Nice Guy: Steve was always extremely happy and upbeat, and much of his dialogue would just be him showering praise on various animals.
  • Noisy Nature: Some viewers have noticed that animal sounds are occasionally dubbed in when the appropriate animals are onscreen in Crikey! It's the Irwins, sometimes even when the animal(s) in question don't even have their mouths open.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Steve has tangled with many dangerous critters over the course of his career, but none made him fearful quite like hippos. He described crossing a hippo-filled river as being one of the scariest moments of his life, behind getting married.
    • One episode had Steve help a United Nations crew in East Timor build a new crocodile enclosure. The episode doesn't dwell on it, but the look on his face as he surveys the croc's filthy, claustrophobic pit is the closest thing to pure rage you'll ever see from Steve Irwin.
  • The Pollyanna: It didn't matter if a Komodo dragon chased him up a tree or if a snake threw itself at him, Steve would never lose his upbeat attitude and saw his close calls (and other moments where most people would freak out) as something to be excited by, either as a show of the animals' skills or the adrenaline rush of being attacked by a cool critter (like when a baby Nile crocodile bit his thumb, he was happy to have been bitten by a Nile crocodile). One of the only things that could make him drop his attitude was encountering an animal hurt by human activity.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The show practically existed to avert this trope, showing the audience how cool lizards, snakes, and of course, crocodiles could be. Crocodiles especially were emphasized to be passionate, gentle lovers, and devoted mothers, and Steve even described alligators as "frogs with sharp teeth".
  • Sinister Stingrays: Steve Irwin's death was caused by a stingray.
  • Stage Mom: Some people accused Terri of pushing Bindi too hard into being the face of Australia Zoo right after Steve's passing, including taking her to America and doing lots of things over there. It died down as Bindi made it clear that she wanted to be more visible and take over her father's work, and indeed both she and Robert have continued their father's legacy with enthusiasm.
  • Stout Strength: In addition to giving a Big Fun sort of impression on camera, Steve was very physically strong from his lifetime of wrangling wildlife, camping in the bush, and also surfing. In an episode of Croc Diaries, he lifted one of his zookeepers out of her chair in a bear hug, and he captured an emu with his bare hands. Near the end of his life, after his past injuries prevented him from surfing anymore, he took up MMA fighting and proved to be a natural, holding his own against professionals in the ring. To quote Terri in Steve and Me:
    "Once he grabbed hold of something, there was no getting away. He had a punch equivalent to the kick of a Clydesdale, he could just about lift somebody off the ground with an uppercut, and he took to grappling as a wonderful release. [...] I always thought that if he’d wanted to be a fighter as a profession, he would have been dangerous."
  • Strong Family Resemblance: As Robert's grown, he's started to resemble his father more and more, from looks to mannerisms to speaking styles both on and off-camera, which is all the more remarkable considering that Robert was only three when he lost his dad, and would mostly know him from his film work and secondhand stories. As early as toddlerhood, he was imitating his dad's croc capture commands as though he'd been catching crocs himself his whole life. By age four, he could stalk small reptiles just like Steve did. And by age thirteen, he was carrying interviews with a similar charisma to his father. As shown on Robert's Instagram, Terri found a picture of Steve as a child and showed it to Robert, and he legitimately thought it was just a retro-styled picture of himself. The resemblance is truly uncanny, and according to Wes, it's only going to become more striking as Robert gets into his twenties.
    • As noted above, some of the animals clearly respond to Robert the same way as they did with Steve.
  • True Companions: The zoo staff to each other. Capturing crocodiles together and having to rely on each other to pin them down so you don't get chomped will do that.
  • Wrestler of Beasts: Steve's claim to fame was just how willing he was to get physical with the crocs and other animals, in spite of the danger.

Alternative Title(s): The Crocodile Hunter