Terri Irwin Quotes
“One night, as I cooked dinner in our home on the zoo grounds, I brooded over my troubles. I didn’t want to spend the evening feeling sorry for myself, so I thought about Steve out in the back, fire-gazing. He was a very lucky man, because for Steve, fire-gazing literally meant getting to build a roaring fire and sitting beside it, to contemplate life.
Suddenly I heard him come thundering up the front stairs. He burst wild-eyed into the kitchen. He’s been nailed by a snake, I thought immediately. I didn’t know what was going on.
“I know what we have to do!” he said, extremely excited.
He pulled me into the living room, sat me down, and took my hands in his. Looking intensely into my eyes, he said, “Babe, we’ve got to have children.”
Wow, I thought, that must have been some fire.
“Ok-aaay,” I said.
“You don’t understand, you don’t understand!” he said, trying to catch me up to his thoughts. “Everything we’ve been working for, the zoo that we’ve been building up, all of our efforts to protect wildlife, it will all stop with us!”
As with every good idea that came into his head, Steve wanted to act on it immediately. Just take it in stride, I said to myself. But he was so sincere. We’d talked about having children before, but for some reason it hit him that the time was now.
“We have got to have children,” he said. “I know that if we have kids, they will carry on when we’re gone.”
“Great,” I said. “Let’s get right on that.”
Steve kept pacing around the living room, talking about all the advantages of having kids--how I’d been so passionate about carrying on with the family business back in Oregon, and how he felt the same way about the zoo. He just knew our kids would feel the same too.
I said, “You know, there’s no guarantee that we won’t have a son who grows up to be a shoe salesman in Malaysia.”
“Come off the grass,” Steve said. “Any kid of ours is going to be a wildlife warrior.”
I thought of the whale calves following their mamas below the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight and prepared myself for a new adventure with Steve, maybe the greatest adventure of all.”
“Always, during both the low points and high points in our lives, if we needed to escape, we went bush. We were so lucky to share a passion for wildlife experiences. Tasmania, the beautiful island state off the southern coast of Australia, became one of our favorite wildlife hot spots.
We so loved Tassie’s unique wildlife and spectacular wilderness areas that we resolved to establish a conservation property there. Wes and Steve scouted the whole island (in between checking out the top secret Tasmanian surf spots), looking for just the right land for us to purchse.
Part of our motivation was that we did not want to see the Tasmanian devil go the way of the thylacine, the extinct Tasmanian tiger. A bizarre-looking animal, it was shaped like a large log, with a tail and a pouch like a kangaroo. It had been pushed off of the Australian mainland (probably by the dingo) thousands of years ago, but it was still surviving in Tasmania into the 1930s.
There exists some heartbreaking black-and-white film footage of the only remaining known Tassie tiger in 1936, as the last of the thylacines paces its enclosure. Watching the film is enough to make you rededicate your life to saving wildlife.”
“During our nighttime conversations, we spoke at great length about spirituality and belief. Steve’s faith had been tremendously tested. At times he would lash out and blame God, and sometimes he would proclaim that he did not believe in God at all. I knew he was just lashing out, and I’d try to use humor to get him back on track.
“You can’t have it both ways,” I would gently remind him.
When bad things happened to good people, or when innocent animals experienced human cruelty, it shook Steve to the core. His strong feelings demanded deep spiritual answers, and he searched for them all his life.”
“Hearing the footsteps of his mortality made Steve all the more focused on family. We had a beautiful daughter. Now we wanted a boy.
“One of each would be perfect,” Steve said. Seeing the way he played with Bindi made me eager to have another child. Bindi and Steve played together endlessly. Steve was like a big kid himself and could always be counted on for stacks of fun.
I had read about how, through nutrition management, it was possible to sway the odds for having either a boy or a girl. I ducked down to Melbourne to meet with a nutritionist. She gave me all the information for “the boy-baby diet.”
I had to cut out dairy, which meant no milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, or cream cheese. In fact, it was best to cut out calcium altogether. Also, I couldn’t have nuts, shellfish, or, alas, chocolate. That was the tough one. Maybe having two girls wouldn’t be bad after all.
For his part in our effort to skew our chances toward having a boy, Steve had to keep his nether regions as cool as possible. He was gung ho.
“I’m going to wear an onion bag instead of underpants, babe,” he said. “Everything is going to stay real well ventilated.” But it was true that keeping his bits cool was an important part of the process, so he made the sacrifice and did his best.”
“Our life together was filled with contrasts. One week we were croc hunting with Dateline in Cape York. Only a short time after that, Steve and I found ourselves out of our element entirely, at the CableACE Award banquet in Los Angeles.
Steve was up for an award as host of the documentary Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World. He lost out to the legendary Walter Cronkite. Any time you lose to Walter Cronkite, you can’t complain too much. After the awards ceremony, we got roped into an after-party that was not our cup of tea.
Everyone wore tuxedos. Steve wore khaki. Everyone drank, smoked, and made small talk, none of which Steve did at all. We got separated, and I saw him across the room looking quite claustrophobic. I sidled over.
“Why don’t we just go back up to our room?” I whispered into his ear. This proved to be a terrific idea. It fit in nicely with our plans for starting a family, and it was quite possibly the best seven minutes of my life!
After our stay in Los Angeles, Steve flew directly back to the zoo, while I went home by way of one my favorite places in the world, Fiji. We were very interested in working there with crested iguanas, a species under threat. I did some filming for the local TV station and checked out a population of the brilliantly patterned lizards on the Fijian island of Yadua Taba.
When I got back to Queensland, I discovered that I was, in fact, expecting. Steve and I were over the moon. I couldn’t believe how thrilled he was. Then, mid-celebration, he suddenly pulled up short. He eyed me sideways.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “You were just in Fiji for two weeks.”
“Remember the CableACE Awards? Where you got bored in that room full of tuxedos?”
He gave me a sly grin. “Ah, yes,” he said, satisfied with his paternity (as if there was ever any doubt!). We had ourselves an L.A. baby.”
“Over the course of two years, from June 2004 to June 2006, two separate deaths did nothing to ease my overall anxiety. Steve’s beloved Staffordshire bull terrier Sui died of cancer in June 2004. He had set up his swag and slept beside her all night, talking to her, recalling old times in the bush catching crocodiles, and comforting her.
Losing Sui brought up memories of losing Chilli a decade and a half earlier. “I am not getting another dog,” Steve said. “It is just too painful.”
Wes, the most loyal friend anyone could have, was there for Steve while Sui passed from this life to the next. Wes shared in Steve’s grief. They had known Sui longer than Steve and I had been together.
Two years after Sui’s death, in June 2006, we lost Harriet. At 175, Harriet was the oldest living creature on earth. She had met Charles Darwin and sailed on the Beagle. She was our link to the past at the zoo, and beyond that, our link to the great scientist himself. She was a living museum and an icon of our zoo.
The kids and I were headed to Fraser Island, along the southern coast of Queensland, with Joy, Steve’s sister, and her husband, Frank, our zoo manager, when I heard the news. An ultrasound had confirmed that Harriet had suffered a massive heart attack.
Steve called me. “I think you’d better come home.”
“I should talk to the kids about this,” I said.
Bindi was horrified. “How long is Harriet going to live?” she asked.
“Maybe hours, maybe days, but not long.”
“I don’t want to see Harriet die,” she said resolutely. She wanted to remember her as the healthy, happy tortoise with whom she’d grown up.
From the time Bindi was a tiny baby, she would enter Harriet’s enclosure, put her arms around the tortoise’s massive shell, and rest her face against her carapace, which was always warm from the sun. Harriet’s favorite food was hibiscus flowers, and Bindi would collect them by the dozen to feed her dear friend.
I was worried about Steve but told him that Bindi couldn’t bear to see Harriet dying. “It’s okay,” he said. “Wes is here with me.” Once again, it fell to Wes to share his best mate’s grief.”
“Steve continued our serious discussion, and he spoke of his mortality. He was convinced that he would never reach forty. That’s why he was in such a hurry all the time, to get as much done as he could. He didn’t feel sad about it. He only felt the motivation to make a difference before he was gone.
“I’m not afraid of death,” he said. “I’m only afraid of dying. I don’t want to get sick and dwindle. I love working hard and playing hard and living hard, and making every moment count.”
“Bindi and I had been in Oregon for a few days, visiting family, and we planned to catch up with Steve in Las Vegas. But she and I had an ugly incident at the airport when we arrived. A Vegas lowlife approached us, his hat pulled down, big sunglasses on his face, and displaying some of the worst dentistry I’ve ever seen.
He leered at us, obviously drunk or crazy, and tried to kiss me. I backed off rapidly and looked for Steve. I knew I could rely on him to take care of any creep I encountered.
Then it dawned on me: The creep was Steve. In order to move around the airport without anyone recognizing him, he put on false teeth and changed his usual clothes. I didn’t recognize my own husband out of his khakis.
I burst out laughing. Bindi was wide-eyed. “Look, it’s your daddy.” It took her a while before she was sure.”
“That night, lying exhausted in my swag, covered with salt water and river mud, I had a single thought running through my mind over and over. Thank God that Steve was there. Wherever I was in the Australian bush, whatever I was doing, I resolved that Steve had to be with me. I felt that as long as he was there, no matter what accident or incident happened, I knew I would be fine.
It wasn’t just that I knew Steve would protect me and that his knowledge of the bush was so complete. I was beginning to sense something we would both come to feel and talk about seriously. When we were together, nothing bad would happen. Apart, we might be vulnerable. It was hard to explain, but it was as if the universe had brought us together and now we were as one. Whatever it was, we both felt it.”
“We’d purchased conservation land over a period of many years, and we were attempting to restore the native bush. We began planting eucalypts not long after we bought the property. First we planted dozens, then hundreds, and finally thousands. Steve worked into the night planting trees. If the rain didn’t come immediately, he would dutifully water each and every seedling. We had high hopes that one day the land would offer refuge to everything from koalas to phascogales.
“It will take a lifetime to establish these trees,” he said. “But one day they will be big, they will have hollows, and there will be a place where animals can live again.” Even in its raw, cattle-ravaged state, the land was heaven. The rufous bettongs were out in force every night, and the white-winged choughs flew down to keep an eye on us whenever we worked.
We had pieced together land parcels for a total of six hundred and fifty acres. This was the property Lyn and Bob were taking over in 1999.”
“If we killed cows the way we killed whales, people wouldn’t stand for it,” Steve said. “Imagine if you drove a truck with a torpedo gun off the back. When you saw a cow you fired at it, and then you either electrocuted it over the course of half an hour or the head of the torpedo blew up inside of it, rendering it unable to walk or move until it finally bled to death.”
“Even on the road, we continued our efforts to conceive. Part of our boy-baby effort was the need to try right at the time of ovulation. I packed an ovulation kit with me everywhere. When the strip turned blue, it meant we had a twenty-four- to forty-eight-hour window to get busy.
At first I had Steve convinced that women ovulated twenty or thirty times a month. But I couldn’t trick him forever. At some point he realized that that was impossible.”
“Every inch of this man, every movement and word exuded his passion for the crocodilians he passed among. I couldn’t help but notice that he never tried to big-note himself. He was there to make sure his audience admired the crocs, not himself.
I recognized his passion, because I felt some of it myself. I spoke the same way about cougars as this Australian zookeeper spoke about crocs. When I heard there would be a special guided tour of the Crocodile Environmental Park, I was first in line for a ticket. I had to hear more. This man was on fire with enthusiasm, and I felt I really connected with him, like I was meeting a kindred spirit.
What was the young zookeeper’s name? Irwin. Steve Irwin.”
- Date of birth: July 20, 1964
- Born: in Eugene, OR.
- Description: Terri Irwin is an Australian-based, American-born naturalist, author, the widow of Australian naturalist Steve Irwin and owner of Australia Zoo at Beerwah, Queensland, Australia. She co-starred with her husband on The Crocodile Hunter, their unconventional television nature documentary series along with its spin-off series, Croc Files and The Crocodile Hunter Diaries. She has lived in Australia since 1992, when she married Steve Irwin.