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CRIKEY! Check out Australia Zoo news from 2007.

News Source: Sunshine Coast Daily (11th September 2007)
by Sam Benger
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Young and old take up the cause

THERE was an eerie quiet over Australia Zoo yesterday, as though the animals were in mourning.

Twelve months on from Croc Hunter Steve Irwin's death, his widow Terri and children Bindi, 9, and Bob, 3, chose to spend the first anniversary in the US with Terri's family, but the zoo which was his home for more than 30 years was open to the public yesterday, and school groups, families and Irwin fans gathered to watch the croc show in the Crocoseum and pay their respects to the great Aussie icon.

If it were not for television crews and media personnel walking through the park, there would have been little to distinguish the first anniversary of the Croc Hunter’s death from any other day - just what the family, and Steve, would have wanted.

For many who visited the zoo yesterday, it was a coincidence that they had chosen to come on the anniversary of his death.

Carolyn Jones, from New Zealand, was on the last day of her holiday and decided to head to the zoo with her friend Heather Provan, from Brisbane.

"I've never been here before and as I'm heading home tomorrow, it was a golden opportunity to come here," Carolyn said with tears in her eyes.

"It was purely coincidental, but I'm sure I'll look on this visit differently because of the tragedy last year."

Old and young alike were touched by the gregarious Croc Hunter - larger than life but who still appealed to ordinary people.

And Australia's best-known family man would have been pleased to know that on the anniversary of his death, families from far and wide came to see the animals and share his passion.

Dee Dryden said her sons Kyle, 9, and Braydon, 6, had been Steve Irwin fans since before they could walk.

Kyle said he loved Steve "because of the way he cares about animals and doesn't kill them".

And Braydon said Steve was his hero because he could tackle crocs and catch snakes.

For Daria Gerlach, 6, and her sister Ebony, 3, the Wildlife Warrior and his daughter, Bindi, were their idols.

"Crocs are my favourite animals," Daria said.

Her mum, Teresa, from South Australia, said Daria had watched Steve Irwin's memorial at school last year and had always wanted to visit the zoo.

"She’s always been interested in nature, but she loved Steve and she is always talking about looking after the environment and picking up rubbish, and she loves dolphins and crocodiles," Teresa said.

"We're not really snake people, but because Bindi's done it, she'll pet the snakes and crocs and alligators."

And for people like Nicky Brand, from Beachmere, Steve's message will live on forever.

"He was just a great bloke, he opened everyone's eyes to conservation and wildlife and got the awareness out there," Nicky said.

"Without him, it's up to everyone else now to carry that on."

Given people's reaction to Steve Irwin's death, it seems that now, more than ever, they are spreading his message of conservation and protection.

And while Steve may no longer be here in body, his spirit lives on not only in his family, friends, and staff at Australia Zoo but also through everyday people who want to cherish his memory and carry on his legacy.

As one message on a tribute to Steve read:

"Always a hero, always in our heart, never to be forgotten."

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