- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

SYDNEY, Australia — “Crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin has survived tussles with giant pythons, poisonous snakes and, of course, crocodiles. Now he faces accusations that he went too far and endangered his infant son.

Mr. Irwin drew fire from child welfare groups, but the acting premier of Queensland state, Terry Mackenroth, said no charges would be filed for a stunt in which Mr. Irwin fed a crocodile with one hand while cradling his month-old son, Robert, in the other on Friday in front of an audience.

“There won’t be any charges brought against him. The department of children’s services have done what they needed to do, to contact the family and to talk to them about it,” Mr. Mackenroth said.

“[The Irwin family has] assured them that it won’t happen again and I am sure that if it does they will be back in touch with them,” he said.

The incident at Mr. Irwin’s popular reptile park in Beerwah, north of Brisbane, was captured on Australian television, and viewers later jammed phone lines to express their outrage.

“I think he’s a bloody idiot; he’s addicted to the attention,” crocodile farm owner Keith Cook told The Courier-Mail newspaper.

At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Irwin said he probably would have done things differently with his son.

“If I could have my time again I would probably do things a little differently,” he said. “But I would be considered a bad parent if I did not teach my children crocodile savvy because they live here. They live in crocodile territory … so they have to be croc savvy.”

He also claimed the danger posed by the crocodile was exaggerated.

“It’s all about perceived danger; I was in complete control,” said Mr. Irwin, flanked by his father, his wife and his 5-year-old daughter, Bindi. “People say, ‘Well, what if you had fallen?’ But for that to take place a meteorite would have had to come out of the sky and hit Australia at 6.6 on the Richter scale like in Iran.”

Mr. Irwin has gained worldwide fame for his “Crocodile Hunter” show on the Animal Planet network, in which he chats excitedly about exotic and dangerous creatures — sometimes from extremely close proximity to the beasts.

Animal Planet’s Web site features several “Close Call Clips” that show Mr. Irwin getting bitten or merrily escaping the jaws of hungry reptiles.

Friday’s footage on Australian TV showed Mr. Irwin feeding a dead chicken to a 13-foot crocodile named Murray while he held Bob in the other hand.

Murray snapped up the chicken instead of Bob.

“Good boy, Bob,” Mr. Irwin said, according to the tabloid Herald Sun. He then balanced the boy on the ground after the crocodile had retreated to the water.

Mr. Irwin’s American wife, Terri, had handed the baby over to Mr. Irwin in the enclosure and giggled at the spectacle.

“It was a wonderful sensory experience for [the baby]. He dug it,” she said.

In response to media criticism, Mrs. Irwin likened her children’s experience with crocodiles to teaching youngsters to swim.

Animal Planet called the stunt a “mistake.”


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