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Crocodile Hunter's Zoo Battling To Remain Open

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/crocodile-hunters-zoo-battling-to-remain-open-2221719.html

When Australia's self-styled "Crocodile Hunter", Steve Irwin, was killed by a stingray's barb, his family pledged to continue his conservation work. Less than five years on, though, the wildlife park he turned into a global tourist attraction is rumoured to be drowning in debt and on the verge of closure.

The claims by former employees of Australia Zoo, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, were denied by Irwin's widow, Terri, yesterday.

She said the dismissal last month of 22 staff was because visitor numbers were down as a result of the global financial crisis and the recent floods and wet weather.

However, one of the zoo's former curators, Bruce Murdock, told New Idea magazine that the problems were a product of mismanagement and a failure to fill the gap left by Irwin, whose daredevil antics with crocodiles were the star attraction. "They [zoo managers] have blown millions on poor planning and poor execution," he said.

The zoo was founded 41 years ago by Irwin's father, Bob, who handed over the reins to the ebullient khaki-clad television naturalist and his American-born wife after retiring in 1991. The couple transformed it into a successful wildlife theme park, with 550 staff, more than 1,000 animals on 60 acres of bushland and more than a million visitors a year.

As well as animal enclosures, Australia Zoo had the "Crocoseum", a 5,000-seat amphitheatre where performers such as the all-singing, all-dancing "Crocmen" regaled audiences. But since Irwin died while filming on the Great Barrier Reef in 2006, the zoo has struggled, despite Mrs Irwin's attempts to propel her children, 12-year-old Bindi and Bob, 7, into the limelight.

Australia Zoo has also suffered from bad publicity, most notably over the departure in 2008 of Bob Irwin, who reportedly believed his daughter-in-law was over-commercialising the place, to the detriment of animal research and conservation. According to New Idea, Bob has not seen his two grandchildren since.

Yet another story of an enterprise allegedly drowning in debt. I wonder what the real story is at the zoo.

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Yet another story of an enterprise allegedly drowning in debt. I wonder what the real story is at the zoo.

I live quite near the zoo these days. and have visited it about 4 times in the past 6 years. Certainly some displays have been in the pipeline for quite some time without as much progress as one would expect from an institution flush with cash. At my last visit, it just felt a little more rundown and there weren't the staff running around with animals for you to interact with that had been there on previous visits. I also got the impression there was some tension in the place - just a comment that was made tangentially about Bindi's show by the announcer in the Crocoseum. Seemed a bit bitchy.

This had puzzled me as I assumed the place was still doing well, but perhaps it all makes sense...

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He is impossible to replace isn't he. What a tragic accident for a truy remarkable, passionate but somewhat crazy, in the nice possible way, person.

If he had lived his TV shows, DVD sales, books, etc, would have kept that zoo going for decades to come.

His family must miss him terribly.

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He may have been subsidising the zoo from his TV work. Also, from people who have been there (I've not been myself) the zoo was a Steve Irwin PR extravaganza with small animal cages leaving more space for retail. As soon as SI died they needed to change the business model - ie, stop selling Steve Irwin and start selling the actual animals. They obviously didn't grasp that nettle.

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He may have been subsidising the zoo from his TV work. Also, from people who have been there (I've not been myself) the zoo was a Steve Irwin PR extravaganza with small animal cages leaving more space for retail. As soon as SI died they needed to change the business model - ie, stop selling Steve Irwin and start selling the actual animals. They obviously didn't grasp that nettle.

Was that the same guy who used to poke poisonous snakes and suchlike with a stick, then turns to camera to say "Cor, he looks a bit angry"?

I'm surprised that he lived as long as he did.

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We visited Australia Zoo a couple of years ago and whilst we thought it was excellent overall, we thought it was very expensive, and the refreshment facilities were poor.

The Zoo has probably continued to trade on Steve Irwin's name for too long - They seem to have stopped repeating his programmes on UK tv now, and if this is also true in Australia his name will sadly be fading from public memory.

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