Celebrate Steve Irwin Day Nov 15th!



Celebrate Steve Irwin Day November 15th! /Credit: DCL

I remember vividly when I found out about the tragic death of Steve Irwin, September 4th, 2006. I’d stayed up after midnight writing but before bed, I checked the news online. Across the page I saw, “Breaking News” – Steve Irwin reported dead. I could not believe my eyes. I thought the man was invincible! I adored Irwin’s infectious personality and humor, and my children and I – especially my son - loved his show Crocodile Hunter. His death felt a little more personal than perhaps it otherwise would have because my two children and I had returned from a trip to Australia only two weeks earlier. During that trip, we visited Irwin’s Australia Zoo and toured the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital where I interviewed head vet Jon Hangar - who appears in some episodes - for an article I wrote for National Wildlife Magazine. Irwin and his family weren’t at the zoo then, but were on their very last trip together, catching crocs in far north Queensland, right before he boarded the boat from which he went snorkeling, when a stingray barb pierced his heart.

His widow Terri, his daughter Bindi Sue and his son Robert have chosen Nov 15th to commemorate Steve’s life on Steve Irwin Day. When I think of Steve Irwin, I think of the incredible passion he had towards wildlife and the way in which he excited kids who watched his shows. While his techniques were somewhat controversial among biologists and others, there’s no doubt he absolutely loved animals, and he devoted much of his money as well as his entire life to helping them and encouraging that same passion in others. 

The Irwins encourage people across Australia and around the world to wear khaki clothing to show their love for Irwin on the 15th - the color of the uniform Irwin almost always wore. According to the Steve Irwin Day website,  “Khaki is more than a colour. It’s an attitude. It’s a stand to do something positive in our world and a passion to make a difference.” The Australia Zoo sponsors the conservation group Wildlife Warriors, established by the Irwins in 2002 to help wildlife and habitat around the world. The organization rescues wildlife during crises such as tsunamis, educates communities, conserves habitat, and researches crocodiles worldwide – one of Steve’s great loves. You can even buy Wildlife Warrior wristbands through Animal Planet to support the organization and show your support.

The plight of koalas is one of Wildlife Warriors' most pressing issues. The species is listed by the government as "vulnerable" in the southeast Queensland bioregion, but are truly threatened throughout their range by two devastating diseases – koala retrovirus and Chlamydia. I wrote about the Wildlife Hospital and Hangar’s passion for saving koalas in my article, Will Urban Sprawl K.O. the Koala?  as he continues to honor Irwin's legacy. Some 6,000 wildlife patients come through the hospital every year, many of which are koalas hit by cars or attacked by dogs. Australia has an amazing network of volunteer wildlife ambulances and animal rehabilitators that even wake up in the dark of night to rescue car-struck animals, and bring them into hospitals such as the one at the Australia Zoo. Hangar sequenced the genome of koala retrovirus, performs surgery on koalas and other animal, and is a passionate conservationist in his own right. The Irwin family is also working hard to “Save Steve’s Place” – the 330,000-acre Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve on Queensland's Cape York peninsula, a wetland area threatened by strip mining.

To celebrate Steve Irwin Day, the Zoo has sent out into the world twelve Joey Ambassadors, young people passionate about wildlife who want to make a difference like Irwin did. They come from Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and the USA and will try to meet challenges in the weeks leading up to Steve Irwin Day, such as gathering 15 books to donate to a school in Tanzania, getting a local school to host a Khaki Day, and raise funds for wildlife and habitat conservation. Ten year old Jacob Danko of Pennsylvania is one of those ambassadors, an animal lover and Steve Irwin fan from Pennsylvania. The primary focus of Steve Irwin Day is fundraising for wildlife conservation andif you're passionate about wildlife you can donate to Wildlife Warriors here.

What will you do to remember Steve on his special day? What are your favorite memories of Steve's legacy, and the Crocodile Hunter series?

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