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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Steve Irwin in Trouble

Aired January 3, 2004 - 7:57   ET

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

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, is known for taking risks with his own life. But now a stunt that involved his one month old son has led to a public outcry and a government investigation.
Our Eli Flournoy has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELI FLOURNOY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL EDITOR (voice-over): The video seemingly tells it all.

STEVE IRWIN, "THE CROCODILE HUNTER": Watch his (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Watch his (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

FLOURNOY: Steve Irwin, the famous, or infamous, depending on one's opinion, croc hunter, pulling another stunt. Of course, no one can know how Irwin's one month old son Bob feels as dad teases then feeds Murray the crocodile just a short distance away, and for good measure, takes Bob on a waterside stroll to the crowd's delight.

Australia's Channel 7 television network, who showed clips of Irwin's performance, was flooded with calls from outraged viewers after the video aired. Protests were also lodged on a family crisis line and with the police.

Irwin later apologized for the stunt, while at the same time defending his actions.

IRWIN: If I could have my time again, I would probably do things a little differently. But I would be considered a bad parent if I didn't teach my children to be crocodile savvy because they live here. They live in crocodile territory.

FLOURNOY: Steve Irwin has made a very lucrative career out of pushing the envelope with these beasts, even scoring an invitation to the White House. His show, "The Crocodile Hunter," on the Animal Planet network, is so popular that he took the inevitable next step of making a feature length movie.

IRWIN: I see him! I've got him!

FLOURNOY: Irwin's long been a lightning rod for animal experts and others. The warnings consistent -- don't try this at home. IRWIN: Freak him out! Get the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)! FLOURNOY: At the Miami Metro Zoo, herpetologist Ron Magill says Irwin is also known for doing good work on behalf of reptile awareness. Still...

RON MAGILL, MIAMI METRO ZOO: This is just the ultimate, you know, to take an infant, your own infant, and put him in that type of dangerous situation was just ludicrous.

FLOURNOY: Magill says crocodiles and alligators are generally very shy creatures and in the wild will usually bolt in the opposite direction after spotting a human. But he says there's a good reason why feeding these animals is against the law in Florida and elsewhere.

MAGILL: The problem is with crocodiles that once they're fed by humans, once they associate humans with food, that's when they lose their natural instinct of fear.

FLOURNOY: The Animal Planet network has issued a statement saying they believe Irwin made a mistake and that the network does not support any activity which intentionally places a child in harm's way.

Eli Fluornoy, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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