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Animals & Wildlife

Robert Irwin honors his father's legacy—wrestling crocs and teaching us to respect nature

crocodile hunter, nature

Images from the Australia Zoo and Robert Irwin.

Steve Irwin was just one of those too-good-for-this-world celebrities. For me, he’s right up there with David Bowie, Dolly Parton and Betty White. Though his methods were unconventional, Irwin found his own wild way of bringing the natural world to the masses, with unbridled passion and enthusiasm.

As he wrestled with dangerous beasts, we got up close and personal with some of Mother Earth’s most misunderstood, learning that there’s so much more to love than fear. His moniker might have been The Crocodile Hunter, but he was definitely more of a wildlife warrior.

Steve’s son Robert Irwin recently posted a video to his Instagram, and man, is this kid not only the spitting image of his father, he also honors Steve’s legacy of providing wildlife education and promoting conservation … all while nearly being eaten by a giant reptile. Proving that boldness never really goes out of style.


In a recent teaser video for the latest season finale of Animal Planet’s “Crikey! It’s the Irwins” series, Robert Irwin goes in, up close and personal, for his first feeding with Casper, a massive leucistic (completely pale) saltwater crocodile.

Like most crocs, Casper is wild, ferocious and territorial. “Since dad first got Casper … he’s had that instinct,” Robert tells us.

Robert will need to see if Casper is happy in his new enclosure by seeing if he strikes.

Meat in hand, Robert stomps on the ground, sending vibrations over to Casper, who definitely gets the message. As he lunges out of the water, Robert jokes, “Oh yeah, he’s keen” before we get an aerial view of a high-speed crocodile chase and the video abruptly ends. It is a teaser, after all.

This might seem like a piece of theater, but there’s more to it than that. As Robert points out, this activity is actually for the crocodile’s happiness and well-being.

Robert’s caption reads, “We prioritise natural behaviour with our crocs. By getting in their enclosures with them, and letting them put on those huge strikes from the water’s edge, they get to use all of their predatory instincts and they just love it!”

Don’t just take Rob’s word for it. As Basic Biology states, inherently stealthy crocodiles “ambush their prey as they drink from the water’s edge.”

In addition to facilitating this hunting method, many zoos and conservation institutes meticulously design their crocodile enclosures to match the same environments found in nature; everything from sandy pool bottoms to mimic the bottom of a lake to natural visual barriers like fallen trees.

The Australia Zoo, owned by the Irwins, is itself one of the world’s leading research centers dedicated to studying crocodile behavior. According to the zoo’s website, the conservation organization regards Steve's capture and study techniques as the “world’s best to this day.”

I mean, just looking at some of his greatest catches, the man did have a knack for it.

Robert seems to be following in those footsteps. I’m so here for it.

To quote Steve, “the message is simple: love and conserve our wildlife.” With the same genuine heart, fearless love and unbeatable positivity, Robert’s work (and really, the work of the entire Irwin family) keeps that message alive.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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