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CNN Larry King Live

'The Crocodile Hunter' Goes Wild

Aired June 13, 2001 - 21:00   ET



STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: When you look at a full-grown male salty, you are looking at the king of Australia! The largest crocodile species in the world, the most ferociously powerful predator of all! Crocodiles, I love them!


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, g'day! He is going wild and taking us with him, the crocodile hunter himself: the teeth-scarred Steve Irwin for the hour.

With creepy, crawly, and downright dangerous critters you may not usually see in a television studio.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. On this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, I thought it proper that I stay in some perspective with the Australian motif, Steve Irwin is our special guest tonight. His wife Terri is around and about, too, with animals and she will be with us later.

He is the host of Animal Planet's "Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files." He's director of the Australian Zoo in Queensland, Australia. "Croc Week" is coming to the Animal Planet -- we will talk about that, and these shows -- "Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files" are the most successful in the history of that network.

Steve, how did this start for you? How did you -- a zoologist -- come to television?

S. IRWIN: Well, mate, it was like, in the early '70s, my dad established Australia Zoo, so mom and dad went about building a zoological facility on the sunshine coast in Queensland.

KING: There had never been a zoo?

S. IRWIN: No, not at all. Mom was a very well-known, pioneer of wildlife rehabilitation, she used to take on injured and orphaned -- particularly macropods, baby kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, and she'd nurture them until they were big enough to release into the wild.

KING: You grew up in this atmosphere.

S. IRWIN: Absolutely. I was surrounded by at least a dozen baby kangaroos, wallabies, or koalas all my life. My dad, he is my hero! The absolute legend of my life. I followed in his footsteps. I've just mimicked him all my life, so he was a herpetologist, one who studies reptiles...

KING: He's still alive?

S. IRWIN: He is, mate. He is. Unfortunately, my mom passed away last year, very sad event. Anyway so, those were my heroes, and they started Australia Zoo, so I was born and raised into wildlife, didn't have a big choice.

So, I would be running around out in the bush with my dad, catching snakes and jumping on crocodiles. In fact, the first crocodile I ever caught, I was nine years of age, and that was on (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So, it has just flourished from there.

Then in the '80s, dad got really serious; he saw crocodiles as being seen as evil, ugly monsters that were just waiting to kill people. Of course that is not true! So he wanted to promote crocodile conservation, so he said, Steve-o, what do you think about going up into North Queensland and capturing the crocodiles that have been dangerous, you know, deemed rogues, those that are, you know, like potentially going to kill people?

I said, you're a beauty, so I am going up there with my dog, and I was catching all these crocs, hundreds of crocs. And so, I bought a video camcorder, the first M-7 National camcorder that ever hit Australia, and I would take that with me, and I'd stick it in the mud, or tie it to a tree, or put on the boat. I would just stick it anywhere. It's all right with a bit of mud and salt water.

And I'd film myself...

KING: For what purpose?

S. IRWIN: Because I was telling my mates that when I come home after 3 months, oh, I have been out catching crocodiles, and they'd go sure, Steve, yeah, whatever, you know, when we're out surfing. So you know, I filmed all this.

KING: Proof. You had proof.

S. IRWIN: Bingo! Hard to take shots of yourself catching crocs, but with a video, away she goes.

KING: Somebody saw this and...

S. IRWIN: Yeah, good mate of mine, John Stayton (ph), in the '80s -- he owns Best Picture Show company, one of the finer production companies in Australia. He's going, give us a look at those tapes, so I showed him, and he is going, you are kidding me! We got to film this! We got to film this! At the same time in my life, this beautiful woman walks into Australia Zoo, I'm coming out of the bush, the wilderness, catching crocs, go to the Australia Zoo, and I do the demonstrations, you know, teach people, these are crocs, they're beautiful animals, I was feeding (UNINTELLIGIBLE), this big, mile saltwater croc, he's like 15 feet around and about 500 kilos.

And he comes striking out of the water, I gave him a chicken, I looked into the crowd, and here is the most beautiful shiela I have ever seen, real good-looking sort, and I'm going oh, wow, check her out, whoa, whoa, whoa! Croc's trying to take me out. Jumped over the fence, and then we started talking, we fell in love, we got married. John is on the phone, you've got to catch this problem crocodile, after I got married in Oregon.

KING: Oregon, Australia.

S. IRWIN: Oregon, USA.


S. IRWIN: Yes, got married in Terri's hometown. And he's on the phone, there's this croc, there's this croc, and I said to Terri, about a honeymoon, we are going to go catch some crocs. She is like, OK. So, on our honeymoon, were the first two documentaries we ever did.

KING: What is "Croc Week"? That's coming in June.

S. IRWIN: Animal Planet, the cable network, there is a "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel, so they have gone, oh, let's do "Croc Week."

KING: A whole week of crocs?

S. IRWIN: A whole week of crocodile hunter, mate, yeah. And of our all newest shows, they go on, they premier on that week. Got some good ones, too.

KING: We will be right back with Steve Irwin; we are going to meet some of these -- um -- well, he says they are not dangerous. We'll be back with Steve Irwin.

By the way, as we go along, we'll try to draw him out, as you can tell. When you get these laid-back people that are very shy, it is often difficult for the interviewer who hope you appreciate how hard I'm trying tonight. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: You are about to meet Monte, he is the original, the very first saltwater croc that my dad Bob had in the zoo. And it was Monte that persuaded dad to retire. Monte caught him on the arm and dad decided his reflexes were no longer sharp enough for these amazingly fast predators. I will do the same one day, when I decide my own reflexes are not up to scratch! You will see here that Monte is not attacking as a food response. It is territorial. He wants me right out of his home.




S. IRWIN: The biggest animal in the zoo in full glory! and it is only in slow motion, that we can fully appreciate the awesome strike power of a 16-foot male saltwater crocodile! He is big! He is huge! He is black, and because he is that big, you make the mistake of thinking he has to be slow! No way! He is fast as grease lightning! And dangerous as any creature in the world!


KING: We are back with Steve Irwin, host of Animal Planets hit shows "Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files." He's going to host and be a big part of "Croc Week" on the Animal Planet. We have a little baby croc with us. Have you named this?

S. IRWIN: Well, it's an alligator, Larry.

KING: What's the difference?

S. IRWIN: Big difference, mate. Big, wide round head. You can see that she has a beautiful round snout. And her eyes sit very high on her head, crocodiles got a tapered snout, their eyes sit low, and the teeth structure is a little different. See how it's hard to see her teeth, where, with crocs, very huge...

KING: Different parts of the world?

S. IRWIN: They do, mate, and American alligators are these one species of gator lives in China, whereas crocodiles are found throughout the Tropics.

KING: Only crocodiles. What about in Australia?

S. IRWIN: Only crocodiles. Two species of crocs. You know, for me, Larry, the beautiful difference between alligators and crocs, is alligators are very placid, very laid-back, a lot less inclined to bite first and ask questions later, although they do get a little carried away at times.

Whereas a croc -- if I give -- this mate would be hanging off my finger or yours right now. And when they get bigger, they get worse.

KING: So the croc is dangerous.

S. IRWIN: Oh, yeah.

KING: But you said, your father wanted to show that they weren't.

S. IRWIN: Um, actually, he -- he didn't want to show that they weren't dangerous. He's always promoted the crocodiles are dangerous, you shouldn't share territory with them. They are a big predator. In fact, the Australian saltwater croc is the hardest-hitting animal on the face of the Earth. When they go into a camouflaged position, and they are stalking their food using the camouflage of the dirty water, they strike with such power that there is nothing more powerful than that. Three thousand pounds per square inch in their jaw pressure. And they kill and eat almost one person per year in Australia.

KING: Is he a he?

S. IRWIN: Um -- I'm not sure. Sorry.

KING: OK, how big will he/she get?

S. IRWIN: If it's a him, this alligator could grow up to 14 feet, and if it's a female she'll sit around about 9 feet. And the Australian saltwater crocs, they go to 20 feet.

KING: Is the skin of both valuable?

S. IRWIN: They are, yes, they are.

KING: For shoes and belts.

S. IRWIN: Yes. Something that I don't support, actually.

KING: I think these are fake.

S. IRWIN: I'm hoping so.

KING: I hope they are fake. They better be fake, I think they're fake.

S. IRWIN: Yeah they are, mate. Yep.

KING: It's a good look, though.


KING: Tell me, before we get back to all this, you lost a friend? Best friend of yours?

S. IRWIN: I lost my mom, which was my best friend, but recently, my best mate, my actual best mate, who is the director of the Australia Zoo. He is alive and well, but we had a really bad, unfortunate incident. You know, I don't know about the global weather that is happening. These days the weather is just all over the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's like no one can make head nor tail of it.

We had a zoo -- at the zoo we had a flood of biblical proportions. The water rose up to where we have never seen it before and we have been there since 1970. Flood levels came up, debris started building up in the fences. It just got higher and higher and one croc, this croc, he's a real agro naughty male, 12 foot, 350 kilos, the debris was going into his fence. So Wes and I are thinking, what are we going to do, what are we going to do? We've worked together for about 15 years, myself and Wes. We followed dad's footsteps. And we thought right-o, we'll get the debris out. So we went inside Graham's enclosure and we started pulling out the debris, and as we started pulling it out he snuck in right behind Wes and just gone -- bang -- and hit him so hard, pushed him like halfway up a 6-foot fence.

And then, and the croc's got him right around the thigh and the bottom, and he's removed two pieces of meat like this, as Wes ripped out. And so now, the croc's eyeball to eyeball looking at him right in the eyes about to grab him on the head. So croc's got 3,000 pounds per square inch. If that had bit his head, it just would have popped it, so I grabbed hold of his back leg, grabbed hold of his back leg and twisted the croc up like that so the crocodile then swung around to try and kill me, which gave Wes enough time to get up on the fence.

Here's the beauty, though. When Wes got up on the fence he turned -- blood's pumping out, he's missing two big pieces of meat out of his leg, and gashes, mate, just pumping out blood. He's turned on the fence and when I looked up, he was ready to jump straight back in. The pride in that -- my mate -- OK, so I saved his life, but he was going go in because he thought when the croc spun, the croc grabbed me so he was going to come back in to save my life.

KING: How is he now?

S. IRWIN: No worries, mate.

KING: You'd have done the same thing, right?

S. IRWIN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I wouldn't sit back watch my best mate die from a crocodile.

KING: Why then -- I want to take a break. When we come back I'm going to ask you a key question.

S. IRWIN: You bet.

KING: Which is, if they do all this, why do you like them? Because you like them.

S. IRWIN: I love them.

KING: More than like them.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah.

KING: We will be right back with Steve Irwin. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: Well, I caught Murray. Everyone wanted him dead. I felt so sorry for him and he didn't come easy. I was on my own. I launched myself on top of him and it took every ounce of strength I could muster up, just to hang on to him. Luckily enough I was able to get a bit of cord around his nose so he couldn't whip the side of my head off while I tried to get him back into the boat. I tell you what, it was a long, hard fight.




S. IRWIN: The trick with catching this alligator is to be wary of those teeth, huge great penetrating teeth.

CHARACTER OF ALLIGATOR: I've allowed Steve to think I don't know he is back there. Now what I'm going to do is wait until he tries to grab me, then turn on him, and bite his arm off!

EDDIE MURPHY, ACTOR: Steve, I think he knows that we are over here. S. IRWIN: Shh, I don't want to spoil element of surprise.


Oh, Crikey -- my arm!


KING: He is an extraordinary personality. He's a worldwide hit. He's Steve Irwin of Animal Planet's "The Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files." You're going to have a big croc week coming, and his wife Terri works with him. She is the kind of host of the show, narrator of the pieces, and she will be bringing various animals on as we talk.

And Terri will be with us in the last portion of the show. You love them.

S. IRWIN: Oh, I love crocs with all my heart.

KING: Why? They kill.

S. IRWIN: Yep.

KING: They maim.

S. IRWIN: Yep.

KING: They take out pieces of your friend's hide.

S. IRWIN: Yes, and eat him.

KING: And eat him!

S. IRWIN: He would have eaten him.

KING: And you like them, no, you love them.

S. IRWIN: I would die defending crocodiles. Absolutely. Every chance I get, I will put my life on the line to save crocs.

KING: Explain this to a chicken host.

S. IRWIN: I don't know about that, Larry. You are a legend in my book, Mate. An absolute legend. You are at the top of the food chain just like the crocodile, here.

KING: I'm big in Australia.

S. IRWIN: Huge.

KING: Big.

S. IRWIN: Absolutely massive. Really big.

KING: OK, I'm only kidding, but the show's about you.

S. IRWIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) predators right at the top of the food chain. The saltwater croc, biggest reptile on the face of the earth. Can grow to 20 feet. Nothing but nothing mucks with an adult saltwater croc. They're territorial, they're big, they hit hard, yes, they will kill and eat people. They do do it.

KING: Do they have personalities?

S. IRWIN: Absolutely.

KING: One is different from another?

S. IRWIN: Every single croc's got its own personality. And, as far as -- you know, if we look at human traits in crocs, they're beautiful lovers, very passionate loves, very passionate lovers. When it comes mating season the female comes in and she will cuddle on him and rub on him blow bubbles under him, get him all stimulated. They'll come together they will ride like in foreplay for hours, and then they will join and mating will take place. And they'll do that for months and months on end.

KING: So, they're better than humans in this regard?

S. IRWIN: In some respects, yeah. And, you know, as far as being parents, the female builds a nest -- huge, big compost nest like this, and she lays her eggs in. She clicks, once her maternal instincts click in nothing goes near that nest. She would die defending eggs and her potential babies.

And in the meantime, dad. He's cruising around the waterway, mate, the big dominant male cruising around. Nothing comes into his territory when his girl's got a batch of eggs, yeah. He wants to reproduce. However when the babies grow up, she will nurture them -- when they hatch up they go -- (BABY CROCODILE NOISES) -- they cry and she'll dig the nest open with that huge big mouth and all those teeth, juggle the babies out, take them down to the water, let them go, and then she will spend about two or three months with them, and then they've got to go out on their own.

And then, if dad catches them in the territory, after a couple years, he will chomp them. May even kill and eat them.

Self-control of population. You will never get an overpopulation of crocs. It's all about territory. In a natural environment, crocodile population would be very stale. You get one big dominant male and a few girls and few...

KING: What is this Terri is going to bring on? Enter, Terri.

S. IRWIN: There she is.

KING: This is not -- what is this?

TERRI IRWIN: This is a Burmese python.

KING: A Burmese python. This is a snake.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, this is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) snake, this one, Larry. Burmese python, no venom, mate.

KING: No venom?

S. IRWIN: No venom. Pythons constrict their food. What she has got.

KING: So, she's harmless.

S. IRWIN: She has the capacity to bite.

KING: She has to strangle you?

S. IRWIN: Yes, but no venom. What she has in her mouth is a set of very long sharp recurved teeth. She's using her forked tongue now as a sense of smell. She's trying to smell her surrounds, work out what's going on. She'll be able to feel and smell my breath coming out. That is not edible. She'll look around trying to get a bead on the place.

KING: What does she eat?

S. IRWIN: Rats. Loves to eat rats. Now this one is not adult. This isn't full grown. These actually grow to be one of the biggest snakes in the world.

KING: This is a baby.

S. IRWIN: Pretty well, mate. Yeah, they can grow to 20 feet.

KING: Now what does that thing to do?

S. IRWIN: You see how it is a forked tongue? OK, so that goes out into the air, picks up particles in the air, brings them back into her mouth and sends knowledge to her brain and says, this is what I'm smelling.

KING: In other words, this pen does nothing for her, but she smells me. S. IRWIN: See how she is constricting that cup of coffee? It is warm, I guess.

KING: She -- if it your human?

S. IRWIN: She has a beat on you right now, she is like, what is that? .

KING: A Jewish person.

S. IRWIN: You know what? You are in no danger, she is not in the S-position. If she was in -- let me see if I can demonstrate.

KING: No, don't! I mean, I would be in danger if you put her in the S-position.

S. IRWIN: No, she's pretty good, but if she was up like this in a position like that, you see she could strike about that range there, that is called the S-position, strike range.

These animals are all about ambush, very similar to a crocodile.

KING: We'll be right back with more of the amazing Steve Irwin on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away. Will he live? He, being the host is the he I refer to. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: Another one between my legs. Just hold your ground. Oh. You are rare mate, you are right, man. Sweating bullets, don't bite me on the face.



KING: We are back with Steve Irwin. Do you worry about any of these creatures around children?

S. IRWIN: Oh, yeah. Constantly.

KING: Watch it at the zoo?

S. IRWIN: Oh, yeah my word, yeah.

KING: Do you have a baby?

S. IRWIN: I have got a little -- she is about that big.

KING: How old?

S. IRWIN: Three years old, three in July.

KING: Do you let her near?

S. IRWIN: Oh, yeah, mate, she's all over them. KING: Don't you worry?

S. IRWIN: Oh, yeah, I'm doing what my dad did.

KING: Which is?

S. IRWIN: Just nurturing her instincts, let her make minor mistakes, and try to help her not grab venomous stakes, and don't muck with anything that has the potential to kill her.

KING: Don't you worry?

S. IRWIN: No. No -- not at all, as long as she is within sight, I'm pretty happy with her.

The other day, she actually got bitten by a copper snake. We are driving around the outback, and this copper snake come out onto the road, so, we pulled up, I grabbed it, to try to get it off the road so it didn't get squished, and she said, daddy, can I have it? All right, sweetheart.

And it was already starting to get a little angry, all right, it's angry sweetheart. She is going, no, daddy, it will be OK, so I gave it to her -- whack! Chopped right down on her thumb, she looked, and blood came out, she looked up to me, and she wasn't sure whether to cry or not. Well, sweetheart, I think he wants to get let go, he's getting angry now.

She says, OK, OK. Can I do it? Can I do it. So she let the snake go, looked at it, carried on, jumped back in the car.

KING: No kidding.

S. IRWIN: We were in Arizona a couple months ago, we are driving along, and a tarantula.

KING: Just like on the set.

S. IRWIN: Yes, just like this one. So, I'm going across the road, I go out, they've got a camera around, so I started filming with it, look at the tarantula. She comes screaming, daddy, daddy, my spider, my spider, and she just put her hands there, and just scooped up the tarantula, and we were upset.

See, the way -- when they pick the legs up, those front legs up like that, that is a sign of being a little upset. My wife is really good with spiders. I'm only ordinary with them. Come, tarantula.

KING: What can this spider do to you if it were really ticked?

S. IRWIN: The first thing it would probably do, is grab hairs off its abdomen, wipe its legs across, grab its hairs off and flick them on you. No good, bad news. But then, underneath there -- see, Larry? They have a set of fangs. Quite large fangs, actually, comparable with a snake, and they may drive venom.

KING: This is all its protective measures, right?

S. IRWIN: That is right.

KING: They throw the thing at you as a defensive measure.

S. IRWIN: Absolutely, defensive only. Spiders don't come out and attack and kill people, neither do snakes, and -- crocs do, sorry, but spiders and snakes -- now you have actually got to stand on them or upset them.

KING: If you are walking along a snake, it ain't going to come out of the bushes and jump...

S. IRWIN: No, mate, not at all, unless you are in Indonesia, where there are those big pythons. There are some there that grow over 20 feet, they will actually kill and eat you. Very, very rare, there would be one or two people killed every 10 years by these pythons, but it can happen. But normally, no, snakes won't chase you down.

KING: You know Jack Hanna?

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: Columbus Zoo?

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: Are you as much into conservation as he is?

S. IRWIN: Mate, conservation? Conservation is my aim, my passion, that is where I live, that's why we are all about.

KING: Why is it important, Steve, for animals...

S. IRWIN: Let me get this tarantula out of my hand. Conservation is a paramount significance, and that's why I was put on this earth, to try to help conserve our trees, our wilderness, our oceans, and our wildlife. That is why I'm here, you know, because if we don't have wilderness areas and trees, we'll never going to be able to breathe oxygen, unless we artificially manufacture it. If we don't look out for our oceans, all our waterways will become polluted.

If we don't look after our wildlife, what a sad state of affairs, to live in a world without wildlife. That's why I'm here, Larry, you know, I just love what I do.

KING: Boy, you are really intense about this.

S. IRWIN: Oh, conservation is what I live for, that is...

KING: And it's important that the tarantula always be with us.

S. IRWIN: Yes, very important. Endangered species and critically environment, these are the words that are starting to come to the fore, and conservation is a big word. KING: Is this is what is called the black tarantula? I have heard that, "hide the deadly, black tarantula, from the song "Dale."

S. IRWIN: Good generic term.

KING: Black tarantula. Do you ever get afraid?

S. IRWIN: Yeah, mate, every now and again, but it is fear of people elements, you know being (UNINTELLIGIBLE) croc bites, I've never...

KING: You got bit on Jay Leno.

S. IRWIN: I did.

KING: Right there.

S. IRWIN: An alligator bit my arm.

KING: Didn't it hurt?

S. IRWIN: No, no, she is going whack, and hit me arm, it just grazed it, like if she would have chomped down, it would have hurt.

KING: Steve Irwin is our special guest. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: Whoops.

Yeah. That has got to hurt. The only reason she let go is because I went with her.

A little bit too close there. That was a small catchup, what she is saying is, chop, getaway from me or I'm going to really rip you. Grab, held and didn't do a violent shake. You are a naughty girl. I might just leave it at that.



KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE with Steve Irwin, of "The Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files." Can I see those injuries again?

S. IRWIN: The croc bite ones, mate? Yeah.

KING: The leg injury, yeah.

S. IRWIN: These happened a couple months ago, little female crocodile. You know, I blew it, and she went down, grabbed my leg, and gave me a bit of a rip.

That was the other day, and I've got a couple up my arm, here.

KING: That's a nasty scar. S. IRWIN: Yeah, got a few here and there in my head. You know, I've got a few around the head.

KING: OK, now, explain to me, and you've been, probably, injured a lot.

S. IRWIN: Oh, I have, yeah.

KING: You ever knew Burt Hoss (ph) in Miami? He was a serpentarium guy.

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: He fooled around with snakes all the time.

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: And he rushed into the hospital every other month for venom.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, now he's only got three fingers left.

KING: That's right! Why do you do this?

S. IRWIN: Well...

KING: You must have fear.

S. IRWIN: Um, yeah, yeah, jammed back in the back of my brain. I think everyone's got a fear mechanism, but I try and keep it, you know, suppressed back there somewhere.

KING: So you've never been bit where you say I'm not going to do this anymore?

S. IRWIN: No. No, I haven't. You know, Larry, these aren't -- it's not like these scars are trophies, mate. It's like, they're interesting, and it helps me to prompt -- talk about conservation, that's what it does. When you get a -- when you take a hit and you get a scar, I've made a mistake. I've made a mistake. It's never the animal's fault.

KING: You don't blame the animal?


KING: You don't get mad at the animal?

S. IRWIN: Never, no. Not at all. If you get close enough to get bitten, if that tarantula had sunk its fangs in, it was my fault. I knew it had fangs, I was mucking with it. You take the hit.

KING: My late friend Ivan Tors, who produced "Flipper," told me that he never saw an animal act hostilely, unless they were very hungry. If they were very hungry, they're going to go for you. But he could walk in -- he trusted animals more than people. S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: Do you?

S. IRWIN: You know, when you talk fear, that's where my fear response really is triggered -- with people. I've had guns at me, I've had knives, I've had pirates have a go at me in the Philippines. And I tell you what, mate, it's always the people element. And for my family, you know, my daughter and wife, I'm always watching for people, people, people, whereas I don't mind her going with the crocs and the snakes.

KING: All right, let's bring in our next one, Terri.

S. IRWIN: Oh, it's a sand goanna! This is me mate from Australia.

KING: What is it?

S. IRWIN: It's a goanna, which is a big -- will actually grow to be the biggest lizard species in the world. Watch out, this one will bite, too, Larry.

KING: Oh, yeah, OK, OK!

S. IRWIN: Yeah, so this is a goanna.

KING: Good warning.

S. IRWIN: No, you're all right. You're all right, mate. You're all right. Have a look at him. Isn't he a solid boy! The sand goanna is very common in Australia. Have a look at that. The beauty of the goanna is they've got a tongue the same as a snake. Watch this -- big, pink tongue.

You going to give us a look at your tongue? Stick your tongue out, sweet -- there it is.

KING: Whoa!

S. IRWIN: And it's forked the same as a snake.

You're upset.

KING: Now, this is a goanna?

S. IRWIN: A goanna.

KING: Does he feel like the iguana?

S. IRWIN: Very similar. Very similar. Australia's version. And these'll actually sit up -- can you do it for me, buddy? Will you do this? He'll sit up on his back legs, up like that.

You going to do it?

Like that, only -- come on, come on. Really.

KING: A little showbiz, here.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah. Up you get. Up you get. Sit up, real high. It's a shame he's not going to do it, because he's got big muscles, and he'll sit up and he'll scan the horizon, looking for food. Look at those powerful legs -- don't bite, don't bite -- when they curl up and get stiff like that, you see how he's giving us a big you profile of his body?

KING: Now, is this the alligator family?

S. IRWIN: Very similar, but no.

KING: Because the feet are similar.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, mate, the whole body structure's very similar. They're saurians, which are very similar to alligators and crocodiles.

KING: They go in the water, too?

S. IRWIN: These things, mate, they can swim like a croc. See his tail, big, wide tail? And if you upset him, they'll actually use that tail and whack! Tail-flick you. They just spin it right out.

KING: What might upset him?

S. IRWIN: Uh -- poking him, jabbing him, squeezing him. Trying to make him sit up like that...

KING: Now, don't...

S. IRWIN: That might upset him. But you know, when he hisses and goes "wshhh," that's when you know he's getting really grumpy.

Hey, mate? You're a good boy. Oh, oh, oh! He's a naughty boy.

KING: He's a naughty boy.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, he was going to bite me.

KING: Are any of these bites dangerous enough for you to have to be hospitalized immediately?

S. IRWIN: No, mate, no.

KING: There's no poison in his bite?

S. IRWIN: No, not at all. Some goannas, like the biggest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon, carries several different bacterias in its saliva -- it'll kill you. You don't want to get bitten by them.

Yeah, so -- but these guys? No, I've had plenty of bites from goannas. In fact, I've got a couple on my wrists, because when you grab them like this they spin around and grab you, and their teeth are like razors, mate. It's like grabbing a razor and going -- flick -- like that. It's very sharp.

KING: And they have no conscience, right? I mean, they don't feel sorry.

S. IRWIN: No, no, no. They fight -- it's defensive. Defensive only. They feel -- he thinks I want to hurt him. He doesn't understand that I love him.

KING: He's not an attack animal.

S. IRWIN: Oh, heck no. No, no, not at all. No, he'd be just as happy to sit out in the deserts of Australia, hunt for his food and never see a human ever.

KING: What does he eat?

S. IRWIN: Lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, any rodents he can find. And they will eat insects, too. Have a look at those claws! Check out those front claws, designed to dig. And these back ones -- can we have a look at your back foot, too?

KING: Don't get him mad.

S. IRWIN: Pardon?

KING: Don't get him mad.


S. IRWIN: No, I won't.

KING: Don't tick him off.


S. IRWIN: We'll know when he's really ticked off. He'll hiss. Ooh, what are you doing, buddy? No biting. No biting.

He's got ears. You know how snakes haven't got ears?

Oh, you don't like it around...

KING: Don't make him mad!

S. IRWIN: Sorry, Larry. Sorry, I won't touch him around the head, but he has got ears back there. Uh-oh. Watch out for the tail flick. Stings a bit.

KING: Watch out is a good word for me.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, he's OK. We're in no danger. See how he makes his profile bigger by puffing himself up? That's all about defense. "Look how big I am, Larry! Don't be mucking with me, or I could bite you or tail whip you." That's what he's trying to say.

He has those legs. Big, powerful legs. KING: And he's successful.

S. IRWIN: Oh, here he goes. He's hissing now.

KING: He has succeeded. He sees me.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, it's working. Are you going to hiss?

Are you going to hiss?

KING: Going to hiss?

S. IRWIN: Can I touch you here? Hey?

KING: No, hey.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, no, he doesn't like that.

KING: We'll take a break. Definitely take a break. We'll be back with more of Steve Irwin. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: Ooh! Hey, hey, hey! Oh, that one stung.



S. IRWIN: Ah! It's a bit of a matter of who's got who. My dad once said to me, "If they're biting you, you know you've got him."



S. IRWIN: Got her tail again. Right-o, Steve-o, whip her out. Whoo-hoo, yeah, she's away. Not even a thank you.




S. IRWIN: This is the mighty green mamba. Have a look at the fluorescent colors on him. What a beautiful snake! Fluorescent green! Trying to get a curl with his tail around my hand. And you can see him starting to puff his throat. He's grumpy, but he's pretty cool. You can see how powerful they are at climbing. Here, you're all right, mate.

You're all right. Uh-oh, go the other way. If he comes right at me now, I've got a huge problem. I'm going to have to just drop out of the tree. I guess I'd sooner that than take a bite.


KING: We're back with Steve Irwin. I might tell you that "The Crocodile Hunter" documentaries are shown in more than 60 countries, the highest ratings in Animal Planet's history -- history of that network. They've got "Croc Week" coming as well.

Steve Irwin, and in the last segment, we'll have Terri join us. And what is next?

S. IRWIN: This is a savanna monitor. It's like a goanna species, and these guys come from Africa.

KING: Smaller.

S. IRWIN: Yeah. When spreads his legs out like that, you can see he loves this. You big knucklehead, designed to crush snails. They get these (UNINTELLIGIBLE) snails over there and they just -- pow! -- crush them down.

KING: Are they hungry all the time?

S. IRWIN: No, mate, not all the time. You know, he only has to eat three or four times a week, and that'd do him. That'd be enough. And actually, they'll go through a period of about two or three months where they don't eat anything. He's shedding his skin, too, Larry.

KING: Oh, it comes right off.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah. You know, like -- our epidermal layer's always coming off, but with reptiles, you've got that very typical skin shed. You know, and you shed down here on his feet.

KING: How long do they live?

S. IRWIN: Oh, they can live up to 50 years of age. They've got quite a good life expectancy, of course, not as good as a croc. A croc can live up to 100. They've got an average life about the same as a human, about 70 or 80 years. Yeah, crocodiles can live to 70 or 80 years -- actually, to 100.

KING: Alligators, too?

S. IRWIN: Yeah, same diff, mate. Yeah, yeah. And Aborigines actually reckon that there are some crocodiles that have reached 200 years of age. I have no reason to disbelieve that.

KING: They probably diet? They've got low cholesterol, they take care of them...


No, if your crocodile takes care of himself, you know, if he watches what he eats.

S. IRWIN: Sure. I'm sure he watches it before he strikes and eats it. KING: Why do you love animals so much? Can't communicate -- or can you communicate?

S. IRWIN: Yeah, I do communicate with them, on various levels. I love animals so much, I guess, you know, I was born into it. I was born into it.

KING: Your father...

S. IRWIN: Yeah, and my mum and dad were so passionate.

KING: Do you have brothers and sisters?

S. IRWIN: I've got two sisters.

KING: Are they into it?

S. IRWIN: No, they're not. No, nowhere near like -- my oldest sister works at the zoo and my youngest sister owns a horse stud. So she's interested in a different set of...

KING: So they are into animals, in that sense. They're not as fanatic as you.

S. IRWIN: No, they're not like me.

KING: But your wife is as fanatic as you.

KING: Oh, she is, mate, completely.

KING: And was she as fanatic when you first met her?

S. IRWIN: Yes.

KING: So when she came to the zoo that day...

S. IRWIN: Oh, yes.

KING: She was, already.

S. IRWIN: Oh, absolutely. Terri owned and operated Cougar Country, which was a wildlife rehabilitation center -- one of the finest in Oregon, I might add. And so her forte was cougars, bears, raccoons, bobcats -- you know, the carnivores from Oregon. No reptile experience.

KING: We're going to take a -- do you have a dog?

S. IRWIN: Oh, do I ever, mate! Sooie (ph). Yeah, I love Sooie (ph).

KING: Just wondering, in case something normal's going on.


KING: We'll be right back with Steve Irwin. In a little while, Terri joins us. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: Crikey, she's a feisty, tough little girl. She's going to be a perfect match for Agro.

I guess you could say a crocodile family group in the wild is a bit like a harem. It's standard to have one male and a number of females in a single territorial range.


JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: You know the guy who does the Australian Down Under -- he's the croc man? You know, "Danger! Danger! Danger!"

So of course, she is from Australia, so whenever we get bored, we go right into the croc man, you know. "Yeah, this is a really dangerous part. Right now, see!"


KING: We're back with Steve Irwin. Gee, time flies here.

What are these?

S. IRWIN: These are walking sticks, or commonly known as walking sticks. They're actually stick insects, and they...

KING: They look likes sticks.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, they do. They actually mimic sticks. That's how they stay alive. They'll sit in the trees, just like that, and they'll mimic a stick. They'll even wave like this to get that motion of foliage. And these are two girls, these are two females, Larry. They've actually laid eggs. And we won't be able to have them out too long, because they'll miss their eggs. They actually lay eggs and they look after their eggs until they hatch out.

KING: What a weird animal.

S. IRWIN: They are so strange. Isn't nature wonderful? See, look at this -- look at this acrobatics. Look at those legs. Three up and three down. Isn't that beautiful?

KING: Beautiful.

S. IRWIN: And so in the wild, they'll sit like that, completely still, so birds don't see them, because birds love to eat these things. Absolutely love to eat them. They're vegetarians, they have no venom. They're completely harmless, you know, they don't hurt in any shape, fashion, or form.

KING: And they're named what?

S. IRWIN: Stick insects, or actually the common name is walking sticks.

KING: Walking sticks.

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: You did a FedEx commercial.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, what a gas.

KING: Was that fun?

S. IRWIN: Aw, mate, that was a kick. When I saw the creative of that, I go, "I want to do it! I want to do it! I want to do it!"

I get hit with commercials pretty regularly, I'm like, "No, no, no, no."

KING: You've also got your own toy line?

S. IRWIN: Yeah, we've got merchandise (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Crikey, mate, we've even started on a movie. Yeah, we've already started on this blockbuster movie.

KING: Oh, no, we've had "Crocodile Dundee." Now what?

S. IRWIN: Oh, mate, watch this. We're going to blow the world apart. You know, I'm taking conservation to the playground, under the television and now it's going onto the big screen.

KING: A commercial movie?

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: You're the hero?

S. IRWIN: Yeah. We've already started filming it.

KING: What are you, like Tarzan?

S. IRWIN: Someone's coming to get rid of bad animals?

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah, well, crocodile poachers.

KING: And Terri is Jane.

S. IRWIN: Yes.

KING: And your little girl is Boy.


S. IRWIN: Not quite. We're not bringing -- she's not that good at acting. Actually, neither am I.

KING: Oh, yeah, I'll bet you're terrible. S. IRWIN: I am, mate. I'm not that good, so what they do is just -- I get to be me and just do what I've always done, only now they follow us around with 35 millimeter cameras. And the crocodiles, mate, it's not like it's, you know, Spielberg, with animatronics and all that kind of stuff. It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) big, wild crocs, you know, 12-footers, launching straight up at you. You know, and catching them and jumping on them. And I have to do some of the filming. I had, like, 35 millimeter camera, because there's no way you could get a cameraman in there, because it's crocs, just attacking the boats. So I'm -- brrr -- rolling off this 35 millimeter camera.

KING: You have a lot of interesting words. Crikey, cripes, right?

S. IRWIN: Yeah.

KING: And "flaming." What is flaming? That's a compliment, if something is flaming great, right?

S. IRWIN: I think -- well, flaming is -- instead of using the other F-word, I think that's how that came about.

KING: I got it. And give it a burl, b-u-r-l?

S. IRWIN: Oh, yeah, give a burl, give it a go.

KING: Try it.

S. IRWIN: Yeah. And crikey, that's like -- that's like, the same as, like -- what would that be equivalent to? Oh, "wow." Wow.

KING: Oz is Australia.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, Oz is Australia.

KING: Bloke is a man.

S. IRWIN: Bloke, yeah.

KING: What's a woman?

S. IRWIN: A Sheila.

KING: A Sheila.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah. And g'day. G'day, mate. G'day.

KING: Did "Crocodile Dundee" do a lot for the country?

S. IRWIN: Oh, he's huge. What Paul Hogan did for Australia was like, he just spread the word. You know, it started with his commercial, and then "Crocodile Dundee" just -- it split our nation wide open. Everyone had a look at Australia. Everyone wanted to come and see the Outback, and take a look, and, you know, it was the best thing that ever happened to Australia.

KING: Do you like coming to the United States?

S. IRWIN: I love it, mate. It's my second home.

KING: Yeah, your wife's American.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah.

KING: We're going to meet her, She's going to come on.

S. IRWIN: Oh, mate, she's a little beauty for a Sheila, I tell you. She's a little beauty.

KING: Bloke and Sheila.

S. IRWIN: Yeah, yeah.

KING: You want more children?

S. IRWIN: Yes, yes, yes, I do. We're trying, not right at the moment, but we are trying to have more children, as we speak.

KING: We're going to take a break and come back, and we're going to meet the lovely better half of the Irwin crew, Terri Irwin with us, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, as we salute the Animal Planet's "Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files" with Steve Irwin. Don't go away.


S. IRWIN: Now this is the Fear Snake, the most venomous snake in world. One bite from him and it's all over.

Yow! Ah! No worries mate. Luckily we have had the anti-venom sent from America via Fedex. In my line of work, if you are not absolutely sure, you are absolutely dead!

Oh crikey! It appears, we have used a different courier who hasn't arrived yet. It is OK, bec...




S. IRWIN: There are baby Burmese pythons. They have no venom, they're pythons. And rarely, if ever, do they bite.

Oh -- chomp -- until now! Oh, it's got a good grip on her nose. Crikey, yow, that has got to hurt.



T. IRWIN: We have a problem. Who's got who?

Oww! Gee, where is Steve when I need him?


KING: In our remaining moments with Steve Irwin, we have invited Terri to join us. And Terri has brought a friend of hers.

What is that?

T. IRWIN: This is a Burmese python that has an unusual color pattern. It's actually got a melanistic condition. That means it is a yellow color instead of the normal dark greens and black colors. So this snake wouldn't survive well in the wild because animals that want to eat them would see them very readily. He wouldn't blend in very well.

KING: Also has one eye.

T. IRWIN: Yes, an altercation, I believe. Snakes that are housed together in captivity sometimes have little altercations over food.

KING: Is this snake friendly?

T. IRWIN: Very. She's beautiful, isn't she.

KING: Yes, beautiful. I never saw a color like that.

S. IRWIN: Yes, it is quite rare, gorgeous.

KING: How do you explain your love for animals.

T. IRWIN: I think I had a real passion for wildlife because they are very consistent. I think in life sometimes people let you down, but crocodiles always try to kill you. And your dog always loves you no matter how fat or thin you are, what you're wearing.

Animals are incredibly consistent, and that is very special. When Steve and I met we were talking about how much we love animals that kill with their teeth. And it was so romantic because Steve loves crocodiles and I love cougars, and they both kill with their teeth and isn't that wild.

And then we were talking about how we don't do birds very well, because we are both deathly afraid of parrots. Imagine how romantic that was. Steve said, parrots always bite me on the nose. I said they always get my ear. It was fabulous.

KING: Do did ever think that maybe were a are a little nuts? I mean, you like things that bite, and you like things that are aggressive.

T. IRWIN: I just think it's amazing. I don't think it's crazy.


S. IRWIN: And now we've got a daughter, who is growing up like Mowgli.

KING: Have you been -- like what?

S. IRWIN: Mowgli, out of "The Jungle Book,"

KING: Oh, yeah.

S. IRWIN: Mowgli's the little boy that runs around with the animals.

KING: Have you been frightened, Terri?

T. IRWIN: Yeah, I think probably an average of once a week I'm afraid for my life, or Steve's life, probably on average. But it is exciting because my husband literally saves my life from time to time. And, it is never a dull moment. I mean, in real life we don't drink or smoke or even drink coffee, because if you gave him any caffeine he would probably be stuck to the ceiling.

KING: Talk about wired.

T. IRWIN: I mean, he's like this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don't really work with him, I just kind of keep up with him. And it is an exciting lifestyle. Every day is an adventure, and you never know what's around the next corner. I just love it and I love it that Bindi is growing up in that atmosphere as well.

KING: Are there lots of pets at home?

T. IRWIN: We live at Australia Zoo so we've literally got camels and crocodiles in our backyard. And Bindi was about 2 years old before she figured out she didn't go to the zoo every day. This was her home. And she's learned how to identify a hot snake -- that is what we call a venomous snake -- she knows not to go in with the camels. And whenever Steve is working with the crocodiles, she yells out, be careful, Daddy, don't go near the water. So she's really got a bead on it.

KING: Are you surprised at the success of the show?

T. IRWIN: I'm not surprised, because when I met Steve I said you are like a real life action hero. I'm not surprised.

KING: He's like Indiana Jones.

T. IRWIN: It is. It's like living with Indiana Jones. And a lot of his work, like an archaeologist, is a bit boring, often doing field study work: Sitting, watching lizards all day does not make good television. And the scientific papers he publishes, they're kind of boring and long and tedious, but necessary. It's -- the good television part is the boy within the man. He is very excited.

KING: He is a natural talent, right? He exudes -- he's like this off-on, same thing.

T. IRWIN: Completely, absolutely. I just think that if we can manage to keep him alive long enough we will do real good for conservation.

KING: Yeah, don't you ever worry that -- the danger you both live. I mean, as you said, they -- you never can tell.

S. IRWIN: Mate, I don't have a morbid fear of death or dying. I really don't, you know. I had a tragedy, breaks my heart to talk about it but there's no use hiding. My mom was killed last year in a tragic road accident. I was born on her birthday.

KING: Oh, she didn't die of natural causes?

S. IRWIN: No, mate, she didn't. And, she was torn from our family. I was born on her birthday. We had an umbilical cord connected to each other our whole lives. We were so close, so very close, so in my death I will get back to her, you know. I sincerely believe that. The only thing I'm a little concerned about is that Bindi...

KING: Your daughter.

S. IRWIN: Yes, she won't have a daddy, and -- that kind of worries me a little. I'll try hard.

KING: Terri, thank you.

T. IRWIN: Thank you very much.

KING: They host Animal Planet's "The Crocodile Hunter" and "Croc Files." Croc Week is coming on The Animal Planet. It's the most successful show and it's seen in 60 countries.

We thank Steve Irwin and Terri Irwin and all our friends of the reptile and animal world for being with us. I'm Larry King. Thanks for joining us. Good Night. Good Day.