CROCODILE MAN PAYS PARK A FLYING VISIT
News Source: Kent Messenger, 2 December, 2004
By: Dan Irwin
Crocodile hunter and conservationist Steve Irwin paid a flying visit to Howletts wild animal park on Saturday.
Down Under’s very own Doctor Dolittle arrived by helicopter for a whistling-stop visit as part of the ongoing collaboration in conservation between Australia Zoo and the John Aspinall Foundation.
For once it was not giant reptiles on his mind but the well being of a no less formidable animal the gorilla.
Mr Irwin said: “I love this joint and I love these gorillas – they’re the finest in the world.
“Me and my team have a very strong bond with Howletts and Port Lympne. It’s about working together to help promote and conserve this icon of a species.
“As the figurehead of Australia Zoo, I try to bring animals into peoples hearts.
“I’ve got a knack with animals, a gift I’ve got with wildlife that I was born into – I didn’t have a choice.
“But I use that, because the human race doesn’t want to protect what it doesn’t know, and as a result a lot of wildlife will be extinct in 10 to 20 years.
“It’s my job – as it is Howletts’ and Port Lympne’s – to expose these endangered species and break down the barriers.”
The wild animal parks are celebrated the world over for their care of the giant ape, and Mr Irwin was at Howletts last year when seven captive-born gorillas left for a new home in the Gabonese forest, West Africa. This time, he spent much of the trip observing a routine veterinary operation on an 18-year-old named Matibi.
The gorilla was put under general anesthetic for 15 minutes while a lesion on her mouth was examined. The wound had caused the animal's weight to plummet from 115kg to 95kg, but vets found no sign of any cancerous growth and she is expected to make a full recoverey.
Mr Irwin’s helicopter was scheduled to take him straight back to Heathrow and onto a South African-bound flight where he is filming in the Kruger National Park for his latest Crocodile hunter series.
Just before he did so, he chatted to visitors at the park.
The celebrity even got to show off his crocodile wrestling skills to brothers Christopher and Steven Dennis, aged 14 and 16 from Herne Bay, even if it was a cuddly one bought in the gift shop.
And then with a whirring of the blades accompanied by a “ripper” and a “you beauty”, the man who takes the harm out of snake charming flew into the sunset.