Facebook Twitter

Croc hunter’s baby stunt has Aussies in an uproar

SHARE Croc hunter’s baby stunt has Aussies in an uproar

BRISBANE, Australia — "Crocodile hunter" Steve Irwin's latest stunt — hand feeding a large crocodile while holding his infant son — drew fire from viewers Saturday, a visit by police and the promise of a government investigation.

Before a crowd of onlookers at his reptile park in Beerwah, north of Brisbane, Irwin on Friday cradled his month-old son, Robert, under one arm and dangled a piece of chicken from the other hand in front of a 13-foot crocodile.

The croc quickly snapped up the meat.

"Good boy, Bob," Irwin said once the crocodile's jaws snapped shut, according to the tabloid Herald Sun.

The moment was also captured by Channel 7 and Channel 10, with viewers later jamming phone lines to express outrage at Irwin's actions, media reports said.

The stunt drew comparisons with singer Michael Jackson handling of his infant son in Berlin in November 2002.

The newspaper The Australian called Irwin's "a bizarre act at his Sunshine Coast zoo that mirrored Michael Jackson's dangling of his newborn over a balcony."

Irwin defended his actions, saying the tot was never in danger.

"I was in complete control of the crocodile. Robert was tucked right in my arm," said Irwin, the Herald Sun reported on Saturday.

His American wife, Terri, who handed the baby over to Irwin in the enclosure and giggled at the spectacle, agreed.

"It was a wonderful sensory experience for him (the baby). He dug it," she said.

Police officers went to the zoo to tell Irwin that people were objecting to the incident but said he had not committed any criminal offense, local media reported Saturday.

Queensland state's Families Minister Judy Spence has called for unedited tapes of the incident, and officials from the state's workplace safety authority said they would also be investigating. Under workplace safety laws unauthorized people cannot enter a crocodile enclosure which is part of a public display.

"I have seen the television footage and while I have no doubt the Irwins love their children very much, I believe it was an error of judgement to place a baby in a potentially dangerous situation," Spence said in a statement.

Child support and family groups said Irwin's behavior was almost like child abuse and he should never have exposed his son to such peril.

"Most parents would cringe at the sight of such things," Bill Muehlenberg of the Australian Family Association told the Herald Sun. "One slip, one fall and he is the crocodile's lunch."

Irwin's danger-filled wildlife programs are carried in the United States by the Animal Planet network and he starred in the popular 2002 comedy, "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course."

The gregarious Irwin was among the few to score an invitation to Prime Minister John Howard's barbecue for visiting President Bush in October.

His Australia Zoo reptile park also is a big tourist attraction.