The late environmentalist and TV personality Steve Irwin, better known to fans around the world as "Crocodile Hunter," was both a force of nature and a force for nature. His enthusiasm about wildlife left an indelible mark on anyone who watched him work, and now, more than a decade after his untimely death, it will leave a mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, too.
Irwin will be formally honored with his own star in the monument, a sprawling tribute to luminaries of the entertainment industry that spans 18 city blocks in Hollywood, California. The news was shared recently on Twitter by his daughter, Bindi Irwin:
Beyond excited to share with you all that we have just received news that Dad will be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. pic.twitter.com/gjA0DrvVKG— Bindi Irwin (@BindiIrwin) June 22, 2017
Steve Irwin soared to international fame in the late 1990s with his documentary TV series, "The Crocodile Hunter," which aired 60 episodes from 1996 to 2007 and spun off several other shows, as well as a feature film released in 2002. He won over fans with a wide-eyed yet knowledgeable gusto, and although some critics have argued he was too assertive with wildlife, his enthusiasm and obvious love for animals helped inspire countless people to care about ecology and conservation.
His fame and unconventional style did rub some wildlife experts the wrong way, and as University of Queensland zoologist Craig Franklin told Smithsonian magazine in 2015, he was apprehensive before meeting Irwin for the first time in 2003.
"I was leery of the whole celebrity thing," Franklin said. "You form impressions from the way the media portrayed Steve, and you wonder what this guy is really like, how knowledgeable he really is and how much of what he does is for the benefit of the camera."
Any doubts melted away, however, after Franklin finally met Irwin in person. "We got along like a house on fire," he said. "Despite having no formal training, Steve had all the qualities of a great scientist. His intellect was phenomenal, he was driven by curiosity and he had an endless list of questions that he sought answers to."
Captivating TV viewers was only one way Irwin sought to inspire nature preservation. He was also a devout conservationist away from the camera, advocating for causes such as habitat protection, responsible tourism and avoidance of wildlife products like elephant ivory and shark fins. He bought large tracts of land in Australia, the U.S. and elsewhere, setting them aside "like national parks" and explaining that "easily the greatest threat to the wildlife globally is the destruction and annihilation of habitat."
He and his wife, Terri, also founded the conservation group Wildlife Warriors, a term he reportedly coined.
"I consider myself a wildlife warrior," he told The Age newspaper in 2003. "My mission is to save the world's endangered species."
Irwin died in 2006, after being struck multiple times by a stingray's barb while filming off northern Queensland. Much of his work is now carried on by family and friends, especially Terri and their two children, Bindi and Robert. Earlier this month, before the Walk of Fame announcement, Terri Irwin tweeted on what would have been the couple's 25th anniversary:
Today would have been our 25th wedding anniversary. I miss you so very much, and I am grateful every day for the time we had together. pic.twitter.com/Ztzoclhvyt— Terri Irwin (@TerriIrwin) June 4, 2017
Now that the Crocodile Hunter has been announced as part of the Walk of Fame's 2018 television class, his family will have two years to schedule the official unveiling of his star. And while he likely would've enjoyed that spectacle — as he often seemed to relish photo ops — Terri says he saw fame not as a reward for himself, but as a responsibility to make sure his legacy was clear.
"Steve has always said that he didn't care if anyone remembered him, as long as they remembered his message," Terri said in a statement from the Australia Zoo about the Walk of Fame announcement. "I truly believe that this recognition for Steve's achievements will ensure that his message of wildlife conservation is remembered."