Terri Irwin is an American-Australian naturalist and author who is known for her nature conservation efforts, wildlife documentaries and television shows. Born in the United States, Terri grew up in an animal-loving family. Caring and tending for injured animals was a part of her growing up years and so it was no wonder that her adult life was spent among animals. She was only 22 when she started an animal rehabilitation centre of her own. On a trip to Australia, she met her soulmate, conservationist Steve Irwin. It was love at first sight and the two were married soon after. Terri’s marriage to Steve Irwin resulted in a successful partnership, both professionally and personally. The two of them operated the ‘Australia Zoo’, and created successful television shows like ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ and ‘Croc Files’. These television shows made them famous all over the world. After her husband’s death, Terri continued to work with wildlife and with the Australia Zoo. Terri and Steve’s two children have followed their parents’ footsteps and are deeply involved in wildlife conservation. A decade after Steve Irwin’s death Terri and her children created a reality Television show ‘Crikey! It’s the Irwins’ revolving around their work at the Australia Zoo.
Childhood & Early Life
Terri Irwin was born Theresa Penelope Raines born on July 20, 1964, at Eugene, Oregon, USA, to Clarence and Julia Raines. Both her parents were animal lovers.
The Raines family owned a long-haul trucking business. Her father would often drive trucks across the country and return with injured animals that he found lying on the road. Irwin mentions that the Raines family would care for the animal until it was fit enough and then return it to the wild. The ability and the desire for care and conservation of animals were thus part of her upbringing.
Recalling her childhood Irwin says it was spent bicycling, hiking and exploring around her town Eugene looking for wild creatures such as rattlesnakes.
Right from her younger days Irwin was an independent woman. She bought her own house by the time she was 18 and was only 20 when she took charge of the family’s truck business in 1984.
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In 1986, Terri Irwin started ‘Cougar Country’ an organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of wildlife. The organization took care of injured predators like cougars, bobcats, bears, foxes and raccoons and released them into the wild later.
In 1988, Terri Irwin started working part-time at an emergency veterinary hospital in Eugene. At the same time, she also had many dogs, birds and 15 cats of her own. She would help organize and set up children’s zoos in local parks by lending her own animals.
Her first documentary made together with her husband was filmed on their honeymoon in 1992. This later became the first episode of the TV series ‘The Crocodile Hunter’.
From 1996 to 2004, Terri Irwin and Steve Irwin produced and hosted the wildlife series ‘The Crocodile Hunter’. Over the course of a decade, they produced over 64 episodes.
From 1999 to 2001 the couple created and hosted a TV series called ‘Croc Files’. This series was specially made for children and was less hands-on than the ‘Crocodile Hunter’ series it was based on.
In 2002 Terri Irwin starred with her husband in the movie ‘The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course’. The film was based on the TV series and was released while the series was still going on. Though the film was panned by the critics it did reasonably well at the box office.
It was also in 2002 that the couple wrote and published ’The Crocodile Hunter: The Incredible Life and Adventures of Steve and Terri Irwin’. In this book they traced their individual journeys from their childhood.
Terri and Steve Irwin partnered with oceanographer Philippe Cousteau Jr. for the documentary ‘Ocean’s Deadliest’. Released in 2007, in this documentary they explored Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Gold Coast and looked for some of the deadliest creatures living there. This was the last documentary that the couple made together.
From 2007 onwards Terri Irwin continued to work and nurture the Australia Zoo and wildlife conservation. In an interview she said that she wanted to make it even bigger as she had promised. She also continued to appear in numerous TV shows and documentaries, sometimes with her children.
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In 2013 Terri Irwin was able to stop bauxite mining in the environmentally sensitive ‘Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve’. She had carried on a campaign against mining in that area for six years.
In 2018, Terri and her children Bindi and Robert created a reality show based on their life at the Australia Zoo. The show was called ‘Crikey! Its’ the Irwins’. After a successful first season it was renewed for a second season.
Terri and Steve’s TV series ’The Crocodile Hunter’ was the second-longest running series among all Discovery Communications network. The series made Australia Zoo and Terri and Steve Irwin famous all over the world.
After the death of Steve Irwin, Terri wrote and published a book titled ‘My Steve’. In this book published in 2007, she wrote about her extraordinary life with her husband.
Awards & Achievements
In 2006, Terri Irwin was recognized for "outstanding dedication to wildlife conservation and the tourism industry” and was made an Honorary Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia.
In 2014, a new species of spider was named after Terri Irwin. It was called ‘Leichhardteus Terriirwinae’.
Irwin received an Honorary Science doctorate from the University of Queensland in 2015. This was in recognition of her contributions to conservation and environmental management efforts.
Family & Personal Life
In 1991, Terri met Steve Irwin on her trip to Australia. They bonded over their love of animals and were engaged within four months of their first meeting. They got married in Terri’s hometown Eugene on June 4, 1992, only eight months after they had first met.
The couple made Australia their home and had two children; Bindi Sue born on July 24, 1998, and Robert Clarence born on December 1, 2003.
In 2006 Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray barb while filming underwater. Terri and her children were on a trek at that time. She later said that Steve had always known that he would not live long.
In 2009 Terri Irwin became an Australian citizen. The ceremony was held on the 15th of November, on the day named as ‘Steve Irwin Day’.
Terri Irwin was the caretaker for the baby cougar that featured in the 1987 film ‘Benji the Hunted’.
MGM who were the producers of the film ‘The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course’ used a crocodile instead of the usual lion in their logo sequence for the film’s release in the USA.