Croc hunter Steve Irwin, whose Memorial service is taking place in Australia tomorrow, lived off-grid with his mum and dad for the first few years of his life, in a caravan on what they then called Beerwah Reptile Park.
Steve takes up the story:
Dad and Mum bought our original four acres of land in 1970. Dad was a very successful plumber from Melbourne who’d proudly built sheds and houses, so he easily turned his hand to building and designing the Beerwah Reptile Park. His foresight and innovation in captive care of Australian native animals was setting a new benchmark for wildlife welfare in Australia. All his energy was put into the Reptile Park so for the first couple of years in our brand new life of exhibiting native fauna, we lived in this old caravan.
Slowly but surely Dad built a shed, and then our house, which my family and I live in to this day.
Starting the Beerwah Reptile Park was a huge gamble and money was very, very scarce. Dad was the ultimate builder and innovator, Mum was brilliant at budgeting and thrift. So together the Irwin family worked long and hard to eke out an existence.
Irwin received a 12-foot-long scrub python for his 6th birthday. He grew up near crocodiles, catching his first one at age 9. As a young man in the 1980s, Irwin volunteered for Queensland’s crocodile relocation program, trapping problem crocodiles in populated areas and releasing them in his parent’s park.
Irwin took over the park in 1991, when his parents retired. He renamed it the “Australia Zoo” and turned it into a big tourist destination. He met his wife, Terri Raines, in 1991, when she was visiting the zoo as a tourist from Eugene, Ore. The footage of their honeymoon, which they spent trapping crocodiles, formed the basis of his first Crocodile Hunter documentary in Australia.
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