Robert "Bob" Irwin (born c. 1939 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) is an Australian naturalist, animal conservationist, and a pioneering herpetologist who is also famous for his conservation and husbandry work with apex predators and reptiles. He is the father of Steve Irwin and the widowed husband of Lyn Irwin.
Bob Irwin married Lyn, a maternity nurse who died in a single automobile accident in 2000. Together, they have a daughter, Joy, son Steve (who died in 2006), and second daughter, Mandy. While Irwin made a living as a plumber, and Lyn as a maternity nurse, the family's consuming passion was rescuing and rehabilitating local wildlife. Steve Irwin, the couple's middle child, would not only come to fulfill the roles of curator and director of the Beerwah Reptile Park, but also produce and star in his highly popular educational documentary series, The Crocodile Hunter. Steve would enlarge the park to its present size of 72 acres (29 ha) and rename the park the Australia Zoo.
Steve Irwin wrote on his website
What a childhood! My mum was the Mother Teresa of wildlife rehabilitation. Our house was a giant maternity ward fair smack-dab in the middle of the Beerwah Reptile Park. It was nothing for us kids to be sharing our house with orphaned joey kangaroos, sugar gliders, ringtail or brushtail possums, koala joeys, baby birds and untold amounts of other injured Australian animals. What a wild menagerie, and an exceptional household to be raised in.
Steve Irwin died in 2006. While filming a documentary, he swam too close to a stingray, which stung him. The barb pierced his heart, and Steve died of blood loss and cardiac arrest.
Bob has since remarried to Judy, and was Queensland's Grandfather of the Year in 2008. Bob and Judy live on a rural property near Kingaroy, from where Bob continues to campaign for wildlife and environmental conservation through his foundation Bob Irwin Wildlife & Conservation Foundation Inc. (www.bobirwinwildlife.com).
Irwin was a successful plumber from Melbourne who, in addition, had also spent time building sheds and houses. Bob Irwin's career in animal conservation began in 1970, when Irwin moved his family from Essendon, located west of Melbourne, Australia, to Queensland.
Irwin had decided to turn his love for animals from a hobby into a career and purchased 4 acres (16,000 m2) of land to construct a wildlife refuge. As a builder, Irwin personally turned his hand to building and designing the Beerwah Reptile Park. Irwin dedicated so much time to constructing the Reptile Park and the enclosures that, for the first years in their new life of exhibiting native fauna, the Irwins lived in an old RV caravan. Irwin would build a shed, and then the Irwin house, which the Irwin family and Bob Irwin lived in until Bob gave the wildlife park to son, Steve Irwin.
"The family home was itself a mini zoo and wildlife hospital," said son, Steve Irwin, on his website, "With makeshift marsupial 'pouches' slung over the backs of chairs and snakes stashed everywhere. Later, the park would be significantly expanded to cover 72 acres (29 ha)."
Irwin's foresight and innovation in captive care, breeding, and handling of native Australian animals set a new benchmark for wildlife welfare in Australia. Irwin was noted in the conservation sector for utilizing non-violent capture techniques which were then largely unemployed, such as proximity lassoing, hooding, trapping, and netting instead of the more common tranquilizers, chains, or other potentially harmful methods. Irwin would also come to strike bargains with the government, catching problematic or intruding crocodiles in Queensland and in return bringing them to the Reptile Park. Irwin, later aided by son Steve, personally caught and raised every crocodile in the Reptile Park, ultimately tallying over 100 crocodiles.
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On 2 March 2008, it was announced that Bob Irwin had resigned from Australia Zoo in order to "keep his son's dream alive". He thanked all the zoo staff for all their support with the notable exception of Terri Irwin.
Irwin quit the zoo and his role as manager of Ironbark Station at Blackbutt where he lived, moving to a new 240-hectare (590-acre) property surrounded by forest and national park between Kingaroy and Murgon where he would continue his son's conservation work.
On 12 April 2011, Bob Irwin was arrested and charged for contravening police direction as part of his actions against the Queensland Gas Company. He faced court in May 2011.
On 5 September 2011 it was reported in the mainstream media that Bob had become disenchanted with politics and felt he could best carry on his passion for animal conservation and fight against the coal seam gas industry from outside of the political arena.
- "Help for Bob Irwin as he retires from Australia Zoo", article from: The Sunday Mail (Qld) by Glenis Green. 2 March 2008
- "Bob Irwin quits Steve's zoo". The Courier-Mail. 1 March 2008.
- "Steve would have been proud: Bob Irwin". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
- "Bob Irwin won't confirm tilt at Ashgrove, but aligns with Queensland Party". Crikey. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
- "Bob Irwin 'too jaded' for politics". Daily Mercury. 5 September 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2011.