News Heading
2007 News | 2006 Archived News | 2005 Archived News | 2004 - 2001 Archived News

CRIKEY! Check out Australia Zoo news from 2007.

News Source: Sunshine Coast Daily (30th July 2007)
by Jane Gardner
Click image to enlarge

This isn't your regular classroom and American lad Matt Basile is no ordinary student.

Matt, 18, has made history as the first recipient of a Steve Irwin Fellowship.

The Chicago teen has spent the past two weeks studying exotic wildlife at Taronga Zoo in Sydney and at Australia Zoo, emulating the work of his hero Steve Irwin.

"I grew up watching Crocodile Hunter and to actually be working here at the zoo he started with the animals he grew up with - it’s awesome," Matt said.

Matt beat 20 other contenders, all of which had already won a fellowship at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. His scientific breakthrough in cloning coral put him ahead of the pack.

After just over a week here, Matt said he was smitten with the country and its spectacular flora and fauna.

"It's so clean here," he said.

"The people are very kind and everyone seems to care about the environment, well, more than the people in Chicago."

He hopes to one day score a permanent position working in conservation in Australia.

"I want to work with the environment and animals, probably in fisheries and aquatic life where I can make more of a difference. I would really like to study abroad and eventually work here for a while."

Matt said the first thing he would say to his parents back home was: "I want to go back."

The story of the Steve Irwin fellowship begins with a tiny Queensland Grouper fish left on the doorstep of an American aquarium in 1987.

The fish, named Bubba, found a home at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and grew into an 80kg tourist attraction.

In 2001, Bubba developed cancer and was the first fish in history to receive chemotherapy. Steve filmed a segment of the operation and the staff at the Shedd Aquarium were instantly impressed with Steve's natural empathy for living creatures.

After Steve's death, they established the Steve Irwin Fellowship with the Australian Consulate General, Macquarie Bank and Qantas to send a teen from Chicago each year to study at Taronga and Australia zoos.

Matt was chosen to receive the honour over 20 other applicants.

Return to 2007 News Articles