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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Steve Irwin

Aired November 25, 2004 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, his first primetime interview since the worldwide controversy last January, when he fed a live crocodile with one hand while holding his month-old young son in the other and then put the boy down near a pond with a live croc in it. He's also got a big announcement to make and he's brought some wild and exotic animals with him too. Steve Irwin for the hour, next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody and we got a great show for you tonight, a return visit with Steve Irwin, the host of Animal Planet's smash hit, "The Crocodile Hunter." Later in the program, some animals of interest, but we always want to spend some time with Steve talking about lots of things. With camera's rolling, our guest, Steve Irwin carries his one month old son baby Bob in one arm while feeding a dead chicken to a crocodile on the grounds and puts the baby down near a pond with a croc in it. The "New York Daily News" runs a front page headline, Steve Irwin, Australian for stupid. Everyone is criticizing him. Jack Hanna comes on this program and he wonders about what happened, so this is your opportunity to tell us what happened.

STEVE IRWIN, "CROCODILE HUNTER": Yes. First and most importantly I thank you, Mr. Larry King, for giving me the opportunity, the first opportunity I've ever had to go one-on-one with an unbiased, the most respected and professional journalist on the face of the earth, seen by more people than anyone, so I appreciate the time. Thank you very much, Larry. What happened, mate. Life was good, life was great. I had this beautiful daughter, Bindy. She was like 4, 4 1/2 years of age. I took her everywhere with me. She'd be in there feeding the crocs. She'd be like out there catching (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in north Queensland, catching crocodiles with her. Now, she's 6. And anyone who meets her finds her as the most well-rounded beautiful child and endearing that anyone's ever met. I would hope that I get the opportunity to bring her on the show sometime because she is like a magnet and she has these incredible genes. She's a wild life warrior and she's incredible.

KING: What happened?

IRWIN: So what happened with the baby, Bob was - we got Bindy, we wanted the perfect set, our little family plan was to have a boy. We've been mating, as the greats ages do for like nearly 12 months to get this boy. Finally, Terry gets pregnant. We based that on our obstetrician. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Anyway, so next thing, Terry's pregnant. Nine months later, bang, baby Bob is born. So we did -- all the family comes around when there is a birth and it was beautiful. And then at one month of age, just like I did with my daughter Bindy, it was a time when we wanted to show her to the world. We've got an incredibly solid fan base, a lot of people are interested in us, so looking forward to seeing this little baby.

KING: So what happened?

IRWIN: What happened? We organized a beautiful ceremony. The Buddhist nuns came to bless little tiny Bob, baby Bob I called him and all of my friends and family. We invited the media, which was no less than four cameras and three of those news crews and associated media and journalists. And some dignitaries, too, Australian dignitaries. Now this is a time in my life where life was good. I had been nominated for Australian of the year, riding this incredible great wave. And so steeped in family tradition, I got little Bob, and I feed this little crocodile. Then, you know, running down to the pond, you know, just having fun with my son like I do, whether it was in front of people or whether I do it on the carpet at home on the floor, which I do to this day. Four cameras at different angles, OK, the three news cameras, the first news camera, when it went to the news edit, they went, oh, it's a good news story, but it doesn't work, never showed it.

The second news camera went, it's a good news story, like Steve, they put it at the end of the show. That was the news I watched. I thought that was OK, good, whatever. And then the third news camera got this incredible stacked shot, it was fantastic. They stacked up the croc, me and baby Bob in the background so the crock looked very menacing and large. To tell you the truth when I saw that vision, I'm like wow, that looks dangerous.

KING: What do you mean stacked it up?

IRWIN: Stacked it up, when you have the camera filming something.

KING: They didn't do it deliberately?

IRWIN: No. It wasn't deliberately. They were very lucky.

KING: Made what happen?

IRWIN: They, out of those three news crews, they showed it at the head and saw this stacked vision and they're like, wow, this is great stuff! Bam! That was it. It just went.

KING: You mean Bob was never in danger?

IRWIN: Not once, ever never. The funny thing is I've been doing it with Bindy for like five odd years and I would never endanger my children.

KING: Are you saying the croc was not close to the baby?

IRWIN: No, nowhere near it.

KING: But by the camera angle it appeared close? IRWIN: Absolutely. My camera that was filming it and the other news camera's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the second film crew, they didn't even - they put it at the end of the news, good news. The other one didn't even show it. So this great stacked vision. Credit to them, credit to them, because that's -- it's pretty scary looking vision. So I made a huge mistake. I should have gone surfing that day. But I didn't, I wanted to show the world my beautiful baby.

KING: So when you went on the TODAY show and apologized, what were you apologizing for?

IRWIN: I was apologizing for scaring people. That was never my intention. My intention was strictly and only to show people, here's my little baby boy. I would never endanger my son as you wouldn't yours nor any good father.

KING: Were you shocked at the criticism?

IRWIN: I wasn't just shocked, I was absolutely devastated. I was taken to the lowest point of my entire life. The Irwin family steeped in tradition. I was born on my mom's birthday. She died in a car crash and from that moment on, we as a family gathered around each other, as you do when you lose someone very, very close to you and to have that take place was incredible.

The interesting thing was that no one knows and now you're about to know, is that you can imagine, everyone who was involved, every family person on earth was picking at it. The authorities came in, the relevant authorities came in. I did a thorough investigation, come in, please come into my life, come into my family, come into my house, have a look. They did a thorough investigation. There was absolutely no case. Bob was never in danger. You never hear about that, though.

KING: They didn't charge you with being a negligent father?

IRWIN: Absolutely not. In fact it was said by them and others that my children are the most well-rounded, educated and loving family they've ever met.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back, later, we'll meet some animals. Steve Irwin has some news for us that may interest you, especially if you live in Nevada. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As publicity stunts go, this one was bound to cause outrage. The baby is Steve Irwin's son, Bob. He's just four weeks old and only an arm's length from a 12-foot crocodile at Steve's wildlife park in Queensland. It was build as the baby's first chance to feed a crocodile. Thankfully, it didn't end in tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: ... research mission is going to take a heavy toll on us, bone jarring head butts, terrifying close calls, crashing tail whacks, cuts, bruises and broken bones, all for crocodile conservation. Broke my finger. Whoa! I'm going face-to-face, with the biggest and gnarliest, the most venomous and the hardest hitting of them all. Come on, then. Yeah, mate.

KING: Why do you like crocodiles? That's sick. Let's be honest, it's a little weird.

IRWIN: You know what, they're like dinosaurs. The are modern day dinosaurs. They've been around for 200 million years and if you make a mistake around them, they're going to kill and eat you. And I find that absolutely...

KING: That's a lot of fun, huh? Oh, that's a lot of laughs. How did it start you and them?

IRWIN: Well, you know, Larry, it started when I was first born at a young age. My dad was a wild life expert. His field was herpetology one who studies reptiles and my mom was a wild life rehabilitator. So..

KING: You were born with it?

IRWIN: Born in it, mate, yes, absolutely. So my parents actually guided me in the direction that I've gone. They started Australia Zoo in 1970 so I was running around in the wilderness since the day I was born.

KING: But you don't have to like it. Some kids are born into a family situation, the father's a lawyer. They don't want to be a lawyer.

IRWIN: Yeah, absolutely.

KING: But obviously you liked it.

IRWIN: Loved it. Not only did I take to it like a fish to water, when I was four years of age, my dad noticed that I had a gift with wildlife that he'd never seen nor encountered ever before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: How many singles have you got back there dad?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: We were out catching snakes for the commonwealth serum laboratory. I found this big brown snake. I sunk my foot back right on it and I had these sandals on. And I'm going, dad, dad, I've got one and he comes on and he goes, whack, knocks me out of the way. Broke my heart, I ran away crying. The snake was at my leg, poised, but wasn't biting. And when he saw that, he thought to himself, what's this kid got? And then when I was 9 years of age, he allowed me to catch my first croc and I guess I must have made him proud and I demonstrated to him that I had a gift with wildlife and he nurtured that with my mom.

KING: What, Steve, is the gift?

IRWIN: The gift. Firstly, Larry, I'm a wild life warrior. A warrior is someone who is trained or engaged in battle. My battle is conservation. So I'm a wildlife warrior. Anyone can be one. But I have a gift. God put me on this planet with a mission. My mission is to educate people about conservation.

KING: The gift to communicate with animals, where did that come from?

IRWIN: That's right.

KING: Animals like you.

IRWIN: It's in my genetic makeup. That's where it comes from. I can do stuff with animals that no one else in the world can do. I've got this, I've got the ability to be attractive to wildlife and vice-versa. Then, on top of that, I've got a gift that I didn't know I had, of communicating to cameras, which is in essence looking to millions of people. Combine those two and there you see my mission is to educate people about conservation.

KING: Ivantor (ph) is the famed founder of Flipper, who's an old friend of mine. He told me that he trusted animals more than humans as long as they were fed. He would walk into wild animals easier than to Hollywood film producers.

IRWIN: Here, here.

KING: You feel the same way.

IRWIN: Absolutely 100 percent. I'm lucky in that respect. I see wild life. I know that if I'm respectful and I understand and I'm well researched and well rehearsed, that the animal is not going to just swing around and knife me in the back, unlike some people will.

KING: Have you been injured?

IRWIN: Today, Right now, Larry, I've got a broken collarbone. So when we work with the wildlife, you'll see me favoring my right side.

KING: Caused been in animal?

IRWIN: No, actually.

KING: Have you been injured by animals?

IRWIN: Have I ever. Both fingers, this is as good as this one gets. It got snapped off. I'd been catching crocodiles in North Queensland putting satellite trackers. It got snapped off behind the knuckle. That's as good as it gets. I wanted to cut it off but my daughter said oh please daddy. I said, no it would be great Bindy. We'll have a little pet daddy finger. She's like no, dad. Anyway, this one's broke behind the knuckle there. Two broken ribs. My knee is bone on bone keeps chipping away. I've got ...

KING: Your closest call was with a venomous snake right? That was your closest.

IRWIN: In my childhood, closest. That was it, yes.

KING: You were bitten?

IRWIN: No I wasn't. I've never been bitten by a venomous snake.

KING: So what happened with this snake?

IRWIN: It was just there, poised and dad knocked me out of the way, but he couldn't work out how come the snake never bit me. The closest - I've got bites all over me, I really have, from everything, from non-venomous snakes to big cats to of course a lot of croc bites, but nothing serious. I'm a professional. I guess it's like a helicopter pilot. You want to jump in with the helicopter pilot. You don't want the pilot going, you're going to jump in mate. I've had 27 crashes. You go, I don't think I want to fly with this guy. The same with me. You don't want to...

KING: Have you been frightened?

IRWIN: I have.

KING: A lot (ph).

IRWIN: I've had a couple of really big scarce, mate.

KING: What was the biggest?

IRWIN: The biggest scare of my life was with my best friend, Wes (ph). Myself and Wes, we grew up together. My dad was our dad, even though he had another father and mother. They're great beautiful people, but he was a reptile freak and together we grew up at the Australia Zoo and our conservation heart (ph). So we had a flood of biblical proportions at the zoo. Liam, Wes, we're like brothers, we went in, the debris was building on the fence and we didn't want the fence to collapse and it was with Graham and Bindy. Now Graham's a particularly gnarly croc. He's bitten me in the hand once before. Bindy is my daughter's namesake. She's a very feisty female croc.

She had a nest. We went in there. Graham snuck up on Wes, grabbed him right on the bottom and just started killing him right in front of me, tore two pieces of meat the size of my fist right out of his bottom, right out of here which was kind of lucky, because if it had hit bone, when crocs bite, it hits bone mate, the bones explodes. It just pop, it just blows up and he probably would have died if it had hit him in the hips. So I jumped on the croc. I twisted its back leg. He spat Wes out. I gave the croc a stick to eat rather than myself and we both got away. Mate, that scared no the point where I was kind of nervous going back in and Wes spent three weeks in hospital. They stitched him. They put these steel staples in and pulled the meat together. He had holes this big, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they pulled it together. And in three weeks he got out of the hospital. Graham the crocodile, he hasn't fully recovered and we nearly lost him with food poisoning.

KING: You love the crocs, right?

IRWIN: Love them, mate, love them, love them, love them.

KING: Is there anything endearing about them? I mean they're not lovable. They're not pets.

IRWIN: They're not pets. There's a bloke, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Casey had a croc as a pet. He raised it up, used to take it to the pub, put it on the bar, then had a few drinks. Look at me pet croc, fellows. Then it grew up. Her name was Charlene. It grew up, adult female croc. He went in one day with a fish to feed it, grabbed his arm and his watch. These animals do not make good pets. But I find them endearing, modern day dinosaurs, still here, 22 odd species, 16 of them endangered. And they're great because they're at the top of the food chain. Larry, these things are apex predators, right up there mate. There's nothing but nothing much (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: And you're talking about crocs, not alligators right. There is a difference or do you mean both?

IRWIN: They're very similar but crocs are the biggest, crocadilians on the planet. They're much bigger than alligators.

KING: Back with more of Steve Irwin. He has seen his share of controversy. We'll cover a little of that. He's an extraordinary guy. He's the host of Animal Planet, smash hit, "The Crocodile Hunter." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: We're going to have to go. OK. Over to this side. Come over to this side quick as you can. We've got spin him. Come on mate. Got to get him in the right alignment, otherwise, when we go to jump, we'll just get busted up. Here we go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: The aim of hand raising cubs is to send them around the world to create a gene pool in different continents as a backup population for Africa. Bruce and I are absorbing every detail. All their habits, how they live and how they like to play and what makes them happy. At Australia Zoo, we're getting two male cheetahs from Africa and two females cheetahs from another zoo in Australia. That's two different gene sources, great for the breeding program.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We have an announcement to make tonight on LARRY KING LIVE on this Thanksgiving, Steve Irwin, the host of Animal Planet's "The Crocodile Hunter" is going to make -- this is funny. The other morning at breakfast with my friends, I said, we go to Las Vegas a lot. Does Las Vegas have a zoo and they all said, never heard of one. And is it true, you're going to bring a zoo to Las Vegas?

IRWIN: Yes! The very heart of our conservation core, where my blood pumps from is Australia Zoo. I'm bringing it to Las Vegas. The time has come.

KING: Where are we? Land there? Where's it going to be?

IRWIN: Don't know, mate. Don't know at the moment, I'm looking for partners. Me, I've got this absolutely incredible world acclaimed product called Australia Zoo where you can pat, kiss, cuddle koalas, Tasmanian devils, go one on one with wombats. You can see me feed the biggest crocs in the world, mate, have an encounter with a venomous snake. You can cuddle a kangaroo.

KING: Have you talked to the Steve Winns (ph) and the Curt Kirkorians (ph) and the people who own all the hotels? Where are we?

IRWIN: Exactly. You just prompted it, mate. This is it. Here's my grand, grand invitation.

KING: You want to bring a zoo to Las Vegas.

IRWIN: That's right mate. I'm great with wildlife. I'm great with the demonstrations. I'm looking for a partner that understands the mechanisms involved in creating the best tourism facility in the United States of America?

KING: Why Las Vegas?

IRWIN: I love Vegas. Is there a zoo there?

KING: No. I don't think so. Are you going to live there then.

IRWIN: Half the time. I'm going to split my time 50/50. My wife's American. So my children are U.S. and Australia. So they're 50/50. So I want to give them the opportunity to have something that I never had. You know, not bilingual, what do you call it, some bi- --

KING: Two countries.

IRWIN: Bi-citizenship.

KING: Multi-national.

IRWIN: That's it.

KING: I just made that up. By the way, speaking of Las Vegas, what do you make of what happened to Roy? IRWIN: What a tragedy, what an absolute tragedy, Siegfried and Roy, two of the greatest big cat specialists predominantly tigers, on the face of the earth. They did what not many people can do. They got tigers into people's hearts. Everyone who went to Vegas got tigers into people's hearts. An unfortunate accident happened and it was nothing more than an accident and I'm very, very sorry for them.

KING: You don't blame the tiger?

IRWIN: I don't blame the tiger and I'm sure they don't either. When you work around big cats or crocs or snakes, mate, you got to understand that they have the power and capacity to kill or maim and if you make a mistake, they will.

KING: How do you react to those who say, the Siegfried's and Roys, the Steve Irwins, the Jack Hannas, zoo keepers you're all really unfair. That's not the way animals live. You don't put them on a stage. You don't put them in a cage. Animals belong where they belong.

IRWIN: What a great question.

KING: That's why I asked it.

IRWIN: Mate, I think the world is made up of a lot of people with different views and different chemistry. Thank goodness for that. It makes it the wonderful world we've got and if they have that opinion and want to voice that opinion, that is their God given right and I applaud them for that. However, I don't agree with that. I believe that the time has come where if we don't get animals into people's hearts, they're going to go extinct. We're running out of time right now, Larry, right now as we stand here. Ninety percent of our fish are being lost, our great apes are being caught up in the bush meat industry. Their habitat's being destroyed. They're caught in a war. They've got AIDS. It's a like they are dying. Our animals are dying at such a great rate (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and if you can't get wilds into people's hearts, then we haven't got a hope in heck of saving them because people don't want to save something they don't know.

KING: So you have to introduce them to them?

IRWIN: Yeah, made. I've taken it one step further. At Australia Zoo, you can actually pet the koala. It has to be contact, now. I believe in full contact, not necessarily big cats and crocs. But things that relate to people really well, like koalas, kangaroos, pat them, kiss them, hug them, smell them because if we don't, mate, we're going to lose them all. Koalas are going to go extinct, so many species here in mainland North America are going to go extinct, everywhere in the world. Extinction is the big E word mate.

KING: Did you say animals get AIDS? They get AIDS?

IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: I didn't know that.

IRWIN: Other retro viruses as well. It's pretty heavy.

KING: You don't have a complaint even with tigers on the stage as in Siegfried and Roy?

IRWIN: As with Siegfried and Roy, no I don't.

KING: Because we learn to love them more.

IRWIN: Exactly. They have jazzed people and they've got people excited about tigers and I think they did a great job.

KING: We'll be right back with Steve Irwin, spend some more moments with him and then his animals. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: This is it, the first show. I've got the honor of working with mean Murray (ph), the perfect bloke to deliver our conservation message to no less than 5,000 people in one hit. The croc exam raises the worldwide benchmark for animal demonstrations in a perfect view from every seat in the stands. It's the high point of my career, a lifelong dream come true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: I didn't even see him coming in, but they come over me for a bit of a look. They're thinking, "What the heck is this flapping around?" They are so inquisitive.

Unbelievable. Have a go at this, just bobbing around out here in Antarctica, virtually in the Pacific Ocean, whales just go around, juts coming up, looking at me, looking at the boat. Woo-hoo!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with one of my favorite people, Steve Irwin.

Another area of controversy maybe he can clear up for us. Earlier this year you went from the heat of the outback in the bush to the icy reality of the Antarctic for a documentary called "Icebreaker." The focus was to be how tourism and interference of man are affecting the habitat of animals there.

Ironically, after filming, you were accused of violating animal protection law. You were videotaped sliding down a slope with penguins and lying on a rock near a leopard seal; also shown swimming with humpback whales. The Australian government regulations prohibit people from interacting with Antarctic wildlife.

IRWIN: Yes.

KING: What's the story?

IRWIN: It's a joke. Absolute joke. Lucky for me, Larry, one of the strongest things that I've got is long-term relationships. And I believe the world is actually going to get to a point where long-term relationships are going to be what counts.

So, you know, I've got my friends and family. I've got my best mate, Wes, and I've got John, Judy and Justin, the Best Picture Show Company. And I've also got Discovery. I've been with them for nearly ten years. And they are like a part -- I'm like a part of their family.

KING: The Discovery Channel.

IRWIN: Oh, yes. Animal Planet and Discovery Channel.

So my good friend, Billy Campbell, and particularly Clark Bunting (ph) and Daryl Altman (ph) and Wendy Douglas have helped me, not only with the baby Bob thing but also with Antarctica.

They have given me the strength to stand up and go, "Hang on a minute." People are grandstanding on my celebrity status. And together, together, no matter what, we're going to get through this.

One of those people said to me, "This, too, shall pass," because I was wrongly accused of riding a whale. I mean, that's bizarre. I'm on an iceberg, mate, freezing to death. I'm that far off having hypothermia. And I'm on an iceberg, like a poodle pony, freezing to death. There's two humpback whales.

Mate, there's a down side and upside to this whole Antarctic joke fiasco. You know, they did a full, complete investigation, criminal investigation, I got put under criminal investigation. So I was a bit offended by that, firstly. This is the downside.

And -- but they did it, and they found I had absolutely no case to stand for. The upside. They didn't...

KING: They cleared you?

IRWIN: It wasn't matter of clearing me; there was no case.

In addition to that -- here's the upside == I was able to get a voice with the prime minister's environmental policy maker. We got to get a federal minister in that was very clever and very powerful, and he's going to fight hard for the environment.

But the biggest issues for me, mate, was sealing, whaling and the killing of penguins. Sealing. My goodness. Larry, you can get on the computer and people can actually see by video the horror and the brutality of -- my kids will never see it, smashing and exploding seals.

It's like -- I've never seen anything more horrific, except for perhaps one thing, whaling. There's nations in this world, Larry, that are still killing whales.

KING: How do they kill them?

IRWIN: They -- they run them down. They run them down with their ships, with a gunner up the front. And believe me, when you're being hunted, you -- the fear that you feel, like I got goose bumps, mate, because it just drives me nuts. The fear of being hunted is a fear that I hope most people never ever face.

And when they get within -- there's this vision of the hunter coming in and, boom, harpooning the whale. It goes in, goes through, and boom, blows up inside the whale. Is that humpback whale, an endangered species, Larry.

They haul it in alongside, and its calf, this beautiful female calf. There's all this screaming and crying and just mass of terror and horror were these beautiful cetaceans, hauled along the boat, drive these electrodes into it.

And while that little baby is entangled in its mother's entrails, hit it with electricity and electrocute it to death, and the baby dies in its mother's entrails so as people can eat whale meat.

That is the upside of Antarctica. I got to expose whalers, sealers and, mate, I've got vision of penguins, boat strike, boat goes through with a bit -- with a load of tourists, which I believe need to see Antarctica. We've got to get Antarctica into their hearts.

Here's where the environmental policymakers working with the Antarctic treaty, et cetera, and showing them the vision and going, hey, you send these big ships in. I've got film footage of over 20 penguins being cut up by the propeller.

So I got to grandstand for whales and seals and penguins. Yes, I had to take a blow -- I had to take a big hit to get there, but, you know...

KING: The price of fame, Steve.

IRWIN: The price of fame, mate. It goes beyond that, though, Larry, in that I've got people that would just as soon as see me dead.

Imagine, I'm out there fighting for the whales, the seals, the penguins, the wildlife of the world. There's these people that run under the title of sustainable use. They are -- you know, the trade in wildlife products is only second to the trade in drugs.

And I'm getting these people. I'm attacking them. I'm saying, "Hey, we see you." I am taking the camouflage off, and we're looking at them. And so I'm creating a lot of enemies.

KING: Steve Irwin, you're doing a lot of good, too.

We'll come back, and when we come back, we'll meet some animals with Steve Irwin, an extraordinary guy. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IRWIN: This is the mode of transport. You get a hold of one of these and watch the wild. This is about as cold as I've ever been. I have to get out of the water. What a shame. What I wouldn't do for a nice warm pair of gloves (ph). My hand and face feel like I'm starting to go hypothermic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're going to talk with Steve Irwin about some of his other projects. But we wanted to introduce some of the species he brought along with him. And one of them is an Orange Kneed Tarantula, which is what? The Orange Kneed Tarantula.

IRWIN: Jump off my hand there, sweetheart. There's my girl.

Have a look at her. As far as arachnoids go, as far as spiders go, mate, she is drop dead gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous.

The tarantulas -- oops, sorry. See, when I breathe on her, she curls up? So when we work with them, like, you've got to try and not breathe on them, because it scares them.

And they're an amazing animal in that you can touch them and they'll move forward. You put your hand there, and they'll stop. And if you blow on them, they'll move, too.

The thing with these is, the pet trade has actually taken them, some of the species, to near on extinction. People love spiders so much these days.

KING: Really? Spiders are in? Spider-Man.

IRWIN: Bingo.

KING: Bingo.

IRWIN: Spiders are cool. And the pet trade has emaciated them. So the reason I brought this beautiful female in is to go, hey, spiders are great. Buy them. If you're going to get spiders for Christmas as a pet, heaven forbid.

KING: Would not be a good pet?

IRWIN: They are really great pets. They are really, really good pets.

KING: Really? Why did you say heaven forbid?

IRWIN: Well, it freaks a lot of people out. And people don't know how to look after them. And they end up dead. So make sure you're a good spider owner by buying them from a reputable person and...

KING: Is tarantula a type of spider, or all spiders tarantula? IRWIN: Tarantula -- oh, sorry, sweetheart. That's my breath again. Tarantula is a type of spider. There -- there she goes. Settle down there, sweetheart. There. She's got, like, little hooks on her feet. I'll see if I can get her back.

KING: Do they bite?

IRWIN: Oh, yes, mate. They've got a good set of fangs.

KING: You like that?

IRWIN: I love that.

KING: I see.

IRWIN: You can actually see them.

KING: I see them.

Go, tarantula, back to your quarters.

IRWIN: There you go, sweetheart. Down you get. And that big hairy guy there will look after you.

KING: And now we meet an Indigo Snake...

IRWIN: There it is.

KING: ... the largest, non-venomous snake in the United States. They're on the endangered list because they're losing habitat in the southeast, in Florida and Georgia.

What a beautiful snake. These must make handbags, right?

IRWIN: (coughing) For a minute there, I thought you said handbags. No, no, that's what they really -- yes, snakeskin -- reptile skin is used for handbags, belts, boots, jackets, virtually all apparel.

These particular snakes, Indigo Snake, is an endangered species here in the United States, in America. Big beautiful black snake.

Now, if this snake was in Australia, you would be in a lot of trouble, mate, because this would be a Red Bellied Black Snake, highly venomous. Tear you quick as you wish out (ph). But it isn't. It's completely harmless. In fact, you can kiss them right on the lips. And she's a pretty good kisser.

KING: You kiss her. I don't think I'll kiss her. But they are beautiful.

IRWIN: Thank you. Very, very nice. And unfortunately, due to habitat destruction in the southeast of the U.S., they're now endangered. And they're looking at being in a lot of trouble. And it's such a highlight to have this gorgeous snake on your show.

KING: How do you stop the endangered -- how do you stop people from -- is there a law to stop them from killing them?

IRWIN: Yes, there is. They're well and truly protected. But habitat destruction, how do we stop that? Well, you're -- by having this one-on-one time with you, Larry, is actually giving wildlife the opportunity that they need, and that is exposure. So -- so...

KING: That's beautiful.

IRWIN: ... they're being exposed.

KING: A couple more questions for Steve. And then we'll -- in the last segment, we'll show some more animals after we unhook the snake from the mic.

IRWIN: Yes. There we go. There you go. Away you go, sweetie.

KING: Beautiful black snake. Yes.

You going to be a U.S. citizen, too?

IRWIN: Yes, I hope to. I sincerely hope to.

KING: You've done 53 episodes of a series called "Croc Files."

IRWIN: Yes.

KING: Is it true that there's a species of turtle named after you?

IRWIN: Yes. Elseya Irwini.

KING: You made your name as part of the Queensland government's rogue crocodile relocation program? That's how you got famous?

IRWIN: It is, yes. And I'm still well and truly into it. I just caught 33 adult salt water crocodiles in 14 days with my family.

KING: Every croc at the zoo, you caught?

IRWIN: Yes. Oh, no. We've got one, two bring-ins (ph) that someone else caught and that live at my house, yes, my house, Australia Zoo.

KING: How did you come to get the show?

IRWIN: Mate, I'm up in North Queensland, right, with the East Coast Crocodile Management Program, doing my job, catching crocs, just me and my little dog, catching crocs.

And I'm -- I'm thinking to myself, I've got to -- I've got to start taking photos. Because you know, you take a photo. Someone's got to take the photo. So I take a photo. I show it to my family and my friends and my colleagues, and they go, "Yes, there's a croc, whatever." No, this is not working. Video camera.

So the first video camera that came to Australia, this National M7 (ph), big old thing, I got that. I put it in a tree. I put it on the mud. Now, I can get out there and catch the crocs and drop the rope and jump on them and stuff, just have the camera set on wide, do my thing. So I shot hours and hours of vision.

I showed it to a very, very good friend, and my partner and manager, John Stainton. He's going, "You're joking. Let's make a -- let's make a documentary, mate."

So, lo and behold, it's amazing how things happen, Larry. This sheila walks into the zoo. I've been up in North Queensland catching crocs for months on end, haven't seen a girl for a long time.

And I'm doing a croc demo with Agro. "Have a look at this little beauty," and he strikes, gets this chicken off me. And I look into the crowd, and I'm, like, "You're kidding?"

This beautiful woman is, like, staring at me. She had the look, and she's, like, doing the thing, the eye thing and that. And I'm, whoa. Agro's trying to kill me. "Here, have another chicken. Thanks for coming to Australia Zoo. I hope you've enjoyed my demonstrations."

The crowd left, and she stayed. We fell in love; we got married. John Stainton's on the phone not five seconds after we've been married and goes, "Quick, you've got to come back to Australia. We've got to make this documentary. We've got to catch these crocodiles."

So I said to Terry, "Do you want to?"

And she goes, "All right." Back then. So on our honeymoon, the first documentaries we ever made.

KING: And she's from Oregon.

IRWIN: She is, mate, home of the Fighting Ducks.

KING: And we'll be back for our remaining moments with Steve -- a duck, he's liable to fight one. We'll be back with Steve Irwin and look at some more animals. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRWIN: You want to see what we have for the new kid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.

IRWIN: Like their daughter, Bindi, Steve was right there for the birth. He could never be anywhere else. The only thing that could ever keep him away from the animals he loves are the people he loves even more.

IRWIN: Going straight to sleep, you little rat. You put your mom through heck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Steve Irwin.

And lo, what do we have here? The baby orangutan.

IRWIN: This -- this is Pebbles.

Hey, Pebbles, say hi to Larry.

This is Pebbles. She's a baby orang.

KING: Baby meaning how old?

IRWIN: She's four years old. She's not actually a baby. And she loves to be scratched. When you get her right there on her back, she's goes, "Well, that's good." She's picking stuff, probably external parasites, off your desk at the moment.

KING: Hey, what's...

IRWIN: She can jump on you. She's really friendly.

KING: Don't jump on me.

IRWIN: All right. OK. Not good with baby orangs.

And the importance of this girl here is their endangerment and they're verging on extinction.

KING: Why are they in danger?

IRWIN: Mate, habitat destruction. They only come from Indonesia.

Now firstly and most importantly, Larry, I have to apologize. Right now, I'm breaking my own rules, in that I swore I'd never take another primate onto a television show ever again. But for the significance of this, Larry, my greatest interview in my life, I apologize to everyone.

KING: Why wouldn't you take primate on?

IRWIN: Because the primate people absolutely are horrified at primates, particularly great apes, being on television.

KING: Because?

IRWIN: Because they feel there's an animal rights issue. She needs a drink. Is that good, sweetheart?

KING: They believe it's an animal rights issue?

IRWIN: Yes, yes, yes. There you go, babe. She likes water.

And but what I've got to do today, right now, is I have to show people the beauty of Pebbles. If I can get them into people's hearts, Larry. Because if we don't pull our socks up, they're actually going to go extinct. They're only found in Indonesia.

KING: She's gorgeous.

IRWIN: And she wants a tickle. You can actually get her to smile.

Are you going to stop drinking for a minute, sweetheart? Excuse me, Pebbles.

Sorry she slurps a little when she drinks.

KING: I'll tell you who's happy with this: Darwin.

IRWIN: Yes. Let's see if we can get her to smile. She actually smiles. She lights all up.

You going to smile, baby? You going to smile? Tickle her under the throat here. Look at that. Look at that. Look at that.

KING: OK, Peb.

IRWIN: OK, Pebbles. Thank you, sweetheart for coming on the show.

KING: You're a big hit.

IRWIN: She only comes out...

KING: What is the "New Breed Vets"?

IRWIN: Yes, "New Breed Vets" is our latest and greatest innovation in television. We're in a little bit of a transition period at the moment. So I made the show, "New Breed Vets." You know, these cutting edge veterinarians out there that are using a combination of human medicine and wildlife medicine to fix not just animals but also people.

KING: And when will we see the show?

IRWIN: Second quarter of next year. But I'm in the middle of making it right now. I'm traveling the world as we speak.

KING: "New Breed Vets," look for that.

IRWIN: Yes.

KING: A Hyacinth Macaw, highly endangered habitat in the South Africa -- in South America.

IRWIN: The reason these guys are in so much trouble, Larry, is because they are gorgeous. Have a look at that. What a beautiful animal.

KING: I thought you were afraid of parrots.

IRWIN: I am. You might see my head's way back, and I'm shaking like a leaf.

KING: Because?

IRWIN: Have a look at that beak.

KING: Have you been bit by a parrot?

IRWIN: I've had a lot of nasty bites by parrots, and it hurts. I set up a big wildlife hospital at Australia Zoo. In fact, it's the biggest wildlife hospital in Australia. And last month, we had 80 koalas come through and 27 parrots and, I think, 13 of those bit me.

KING: OK. And next, a Green Tree Frog.

IRWIN: Here we go. Actually, this is a Horned Frog, this little tucker here.

KING: You call it a great eco-barometer. When they first start disappearing from an area, experts know that eco-disaster is on the way?

IRWIN: That's right. Can I have some water, please? Environmental indicators. The skin of the frog absorbing -- absorbs everything that is in the environment.

And so, we're seeing mass -- mass frog -- sorry about this, Larry. I have to wet my hands, because their skin is so delicate that if I don't, it will absorb anything that I've got on my hands.

You want to get on Larry real bad, don't you?

KING: Where was he going?

IRWIN: Just on your lap, I think, mate.

Yes, so we're using these as environmental indicators. We're losing them at a great rate. We've got to pull our socks up. We've got to watch frog species, because they're telling us about the pollutants, about the destruction of ozone area. Right in these tiny amphibians is -- is some great scientific evidence that the world is coming unglued, mate.

KING: And this is the Desert Tortoise.

IRWIN: Yes. Have a look at this.

KING: And ravens often rob their nest of eggs.

IRWIN: Yes, mate. And they eat the babies, too.

KING: They don't like peanuts.

IRWIN: No. She don't eat peanuts, mate. They like leafy greens. I guess that's why they live so long.

KING: Broccoli. IRWIN: Exactly.

KING: Sugar beans.

IRWIN: Have we got any broccoli?

KING: I don't think so.

IRWIN: Yes -- no, they love their leafy greens.

KING: How long do they live?

IRWIN: They can live over 100, mate. So -- and the secret to their longevity is their -- is, I think, eating leafy greens. I think it's really, really good.

KING: When you think about it, though, life's got to be pretty dull for them. They're out in the desert. They're carrying around this thing on their back. Oh, good gracious. They don't move fast, right?

IRWIN: No. They're slow.

KING: Like, what are you going to do today?

IRWIN: He's going to eat, and he's going to think about mating.

KING: What's -- we've got to run. What's "Crocodile Diaries"?

IRWIN: "Crocodile Diaries" is -- no jumping. They don't jump well, either.

"Crocodile Diaries" is all about these cameras that we've got in the Australia Zoo, at my home and my heartbeat, watching everything that takes place. I've got 460 staff, thousands of animals, the greatest Australian wildlife experience on Earth.

KING: When can we see this?

IRWIN: I haven't got any idea.

KING: You're putting it together now?

IRWIN: Yes. Oh, no, it's together. We've finished. I finished the last show, like, just days ago. But I don't know when it goes to the air, mate. Sorry about that, Animal Planet.

KING: Steven.

IRWIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Thanks for clearing up a lot of things. Thanks for being with us. You're a delight.

IRWIN: Thank you for the opportunity, my friend. KING: Steve Irwin, the host of Animal Planet's smash hit, "The Crocodile Hunter." Great pleasure having him with us. I'll be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Hope you have a great rest of the holiday, and please drive carefully. And "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN" is next. Good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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