Crocodile Hunter: The Next Generation
At Australia Zoo history seemed to be repeating itself as eight-year-old Robert Irwin took center stage earlier this month. He was walking in his late father's footsteps as he fed the crocodiles in front of a crowd of zoo patrons and his mother. It was his first foray into the public eye on his own.
Robert is the son of famed Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, who was accidentally killed by a stingray while filming underwater off the coast of Australia. Steve Irwin was best known for his gregarious and outgoing personality, thick Australian accent, his catch-word "crikey!" and his passionate work in animal education and conservation.
Robert was named for his grandfather, Bob Irwin, who founded Australia Zoo along with wife Lyn and young son Steve in1970. The zoo is now owned by Steve's widow and Robert's mum, Terri. Robert's older sister, Bindi, is also active in the family business.
Robert's first time in front of the crowds as part of the family act came when he was just a baby. In a move that created a firestorm of controversy, Steve Irwin took Robert with him into the pen to feed the crocodiles and held the baby out toward the reptiles. Child welfare groups and animal rights groups spoke out against the action. Steve and Terri both insisted that Robert had been in no danger due to Steve's extensive experience with the animals.
Terri says that Robert is becoming more like Steve every day and is a real "chip off the old block." With his blond hair and good looks, it does seem that this does seem like deja vu.
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger