Robert Irwin has spoken about the heart-stopping moment he was forced to flee for his life when a 3.7metre crocodile lunged at him during a feeding session at Australia Zoo.
The 18-year-old, who is the son of Steve ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin, shared footage on Monday showing his terrifying encounter with the rare ‘leucistic’ saltie named Casper.
Robert offered Casper a slab of meat for lunch to test whether the animal was comfortable enough with his new enclosure to be featured in shows at the zoo.
But the 350kg beast beast ignored the food and made a beeline for the teen with snapping jaws, forcing him to flee and tell his fellow zookeepers to ‘bail, bail!’
‘[Caspar] is just absolute dynamite,’ he told Today show hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon on Tuesday.
Speaking out: Robert Irwin has broken his silence on the heart-stopping moment he was forced to flee for his life after a huge crocodile lunged towards him at Australia Zoo. Pictured with mother Terri Irwin on Tuesday morning’s the Today show
‘I’m in there feeding him to do a kind of a test, see how he reacts.
‘I get him to come out of the water, he puts on a big strike. I throw the food, he looks straight past the food and just right at my head and starts running.’
Robert said he was left with no other option than to escape the enclosure, recalling: ‘He puts on this huge chase and I just go, nah – bail.
‘You can’t have any sort of ego. You’ve got to know when to call it and when it’s too close. And that was too close.’
‘[Caspar] is just absolute dynamite,’ he told Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon. ‘I’m in there feeding him to do a kind of a test, see how he reacts
Close call: Robert was almost EATEN by a 3.7 metre, 350kg crocodile at Australia Zoo recently after it ignored its lunch and lunged at him
Robert described the 350kg beast as one of the most ‘hard-hitting’ crocodiles at Australia Zoo – one that Terri and his father Steve rescued long ago.
Allison asked Terri how she felt seeing her son risking his life to train with the crocodiles, to which she replied: ‘Just incredibly proud. I really wish Steve could be here to see what a great job he’s doing.
‘Robert has spent so much time studying crocodiles both here at Australia Zoo and in the wild doing research work, and there are days where you cut it finer than other days. But I know that Robert is well rehearsed with crocodiles.
Snappy: In the heart stopping video, the teenager was lunged at by a saltwater crocodile named Casper
Dash: Robert had been trying to ascertain whether Casper was comfortable enough with his new enclosure to be featured in shows at Australia Zoo. However Casper ignored the food offered by Robert and went straight for the teenager himself with snapping jaws
‘They’ve got distinct rules, it’s pretty easy to stay out of the way – but the most important thing is to be really good at getting over the fence.’
‘If you can do that, you’re good,’ she added with a laugh.
While Robert is now safe and well, the teen and Australia Zoo have been criticised by some for ‘using animals as entertainment’.
‘Zoos should never exist, wild animals shouldn’t be held captive for the amusement of humans,’ one fan wrote on social media, while another said: ‘Leave the animals alone.’
‘When will they learn. This is sad. For a show, was it worth it?’ a third added.
‘Animal abuse for entertainment,’ another scathed, while one wrote: ‘Stop tormenting wild animals.’
Not happy: While Robert is now safe and well, the near-miss saw Australia Zoo receive an abundance of criticism for what some claim is ‘using animals as entertainment’
‘Stop using animals for entertainment,’ one added, while another referred to an article headline and said: ‘Why doesn’t it read “Crocodile had to protect his environment from annoying man?” You know wildlife warriors and all that.’
Robert addressed some of the criticism on Tuesday after Karl asked about an infamous 2004 incident which saw Steve carry him into a crocodile enclosure as a baby.
‘That was something that was just… everything always gets blown up and made a huge thing,’ Robert said.
Shock incident: Robert addressed some of the criticism during the interview, after Karl asked about an infamous incident 2004 (pictured) when his father Steve took him into a crocodile enclosure as a baby while a ravenous crocodile was waiting to be fed
‘For me it’s an adrenalin rush, it’s an exciting thing to do – but for me personally, I feel closest to my dad when I’m in there working with the animals he loved.’
Australia Zoo prides itself on playing a vital role in the ongoing fight for wildlife conservation, through zoological programs such as the endangered species breeding program.
Robert continued: ‘So many of our crocodiles are the originals, the ones we’ve worked with from day one. It’s an honour for me to continue that legacy.
‘Yes they’re dangerous, but they’re amazing creatures, deserving of our respect.
‘I hope he’d be proud. You get your dangerous moments, but I’m very proud that I never have and never will get in a situation where it gets too dicey.’
Rare beast: Casper (pictured) is a leucistic Saltwater Crocodile, which means he suffers from a dramatic reduction in dark skin pigment and appears lighter in colour to other crocs
Making a run for it: Irwin was forced to run, shouting ‘bail, bail bail!’ as he fled the approaching reptile
Predator: Casper is pictured here
WHO IS CASPER?
- Casper is one of two leucistic Saltwater Crocodiles at Australia Zoo
- Being leucistic basically means the animals have a dramatic reduction in dark skin pigment
- Australia Zoo describe Casper as ‘one of the most aggressive crocodiles we have ever seen’
- He has been paired up with the zoo’s other leucistic croc, a female named Wendy
- Casper measures in at 3.7 metres long and weighs a whopping 350 kilograms
- According to Australia Zoo his condition means he likely would have been picked on in the wild
The family concluded that they ‘cannot wait’ for the rest of the world to be able to experience Australia Zoo when borders open later this month.
‘In and out of lockdowns, it’s been such a challenging time as it is for everyone. It’s so important through it all to prioritise health and safety – that’s what it’s all about for us,’ Robert added.
The terrifying clip is from the upcoming season finale of U.S. TV show Crikey! It’s the Irwins, and was posted by Robert on social media this week.
Casper is a leucistic saltwater crocodile, which means he suffers from a dramatic reduction in dark skin pigment and appears lighter in colour to other crocs.
According to Australia Zoo, his condition means ‘he would’ve been predated on at a young age in the wild.’
They also describe Casper as ‘one of the most aggressive crocodiles we have ever seen’.
However, at the zoo he has been paired up with a female saltwater crocodile with the same condition named Wendy.
In 2006, Robert’s father Steve Irwin died while filming a documentary in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
He was 44 years old.
He died after being pierced in the chest by a short-tail stingray.
Patriarch: In 2006, Robert’s father Steve Irwin (pictured in 2003) died while filming a documentary in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef