Steve Irwin’s Son Successfully Breeds A Rare Australian Turtle That The Crocodile Hunter Discovered

Published October 20, 2023

Robert Irwin has followed in his father's footsteps as a conservationist and wildlife advocate, and now he's celebrating the birth of the first Irwin's turtle to be hatched in captivity.

Irwin's Turtle

Robert Irwin/InstagramRobert Irwin, the 19-year-old son of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, hatched a rare species of turtle that Steve discovered in 1990.

The son of late Australian conservationist and television personality Steve Irwin has helped successfully hatch the first Irwin’s turtle to be born in captivity.

Robert Irwin, 19, shared a video of himself holding a baby Irwin’s turtle (Elseya irwini) at Australia Zoo in Queensland. His father discovered the rare turtle in 1990, and it was named in his honor.

“This is one of the highlights of my entire life, one of the most special moments ever for Australia Zoo,” Robert said in the video. “This is the very first Elseya irwini, Irwin’s turtle, ever hatched for any zoological facility anywhere in the world.”

The Irwin’s turtle is under threat due to the construction of the Burdekin Dam, which has caused damage to their specialized habitat. But Robert is hoping to give these creatures a chance of survival.

“For the first time, we’ve got a little baby, and he’s gonna get his first swim in a brand new pond,” Robert said in the video before releasing the tiny reptile into its new enclosure.

Elseya irwini is known for its rare ability to breathe underwater through its cloaca, leading to the nickname “bum-breather.” The species was unknown until 1990, when Steve Irwin discovered it while on a crocodile-catching trip on Queensland’s Burdekin River with his own father, naturalist Bob Irwin.

Steve Irwin tragically died in 2006 at the age of 44. The host of the popular TV show The Crocodile Hunter, Steve was mourned by fans around the world, with over 300 million people watching the live broadcast of his funeral.

Robert was just three years old when his father died, but that doesn’t stop him from following in his footsteps.

“I think Dad would be pretty proud that we’ve become the first to successfully breed the turtle that he discovered,” Robert wrote in the caption of his video. “A rare, and unique species under threat in the wild has just been given a second chance.”

Steve and Robert Irwin

Robert Irwin/InstagramRobert Irwin (bottom) has been carrying on his late father’s legacy by working for the Australia Zoo and sharing educational content on social media.

In 2006, Steve Irwin and his longtime cameraman Justin Lyons were shooting a documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest at the Great Barrier Reef. They were on the water in an inflatable boat when they spotted a huge stingray swimming by.

Irwin and Lyons decided to get in the water to try to get footage of the creature. Irwin wanted to position himself behind the stingray to get a shot of it swimming away, but then the fish suddenly whipped its tail up and pierced Irwin over 100 times, “[going] through his chest like a hot knife through butter,” Lyons said, according to the Mirror.

“I had the camera and thought this was going to be a great shot,” Lyons recalled. “But all [of] a sudden the stingray propped on its front and started stabbing Steve with its tail. There were hundreds of strikes within just a few seconds.”

The pair managed to make it back to the main boat, but it was too late. The damage to Irwin’s heart and lungs was too extensive.

“He just sort of calmly looked up at me and said, ‘I’m dying,'” Lyons said. “And that was the last thing he said. We hoped for a miracle. I did CPR on him for over an hour before the medics came, but then they pronounced him dead within 10 seconds of looking at him.”

Irwin Family

Australia ZooThe Irwin family before Steve’s tragic death in 2006.

Steve Irwin is survived by his wife and cohost of The Crocodile Hunter Terri Irwin and his two children, Bindi and Robert. Both Bindi and Robert continue to share educational content about wildlife and the environment on social media.

As Robert said in his video about the newly-hatched Irwin’s turtle, “Dad would be stoked.”

After reading about the rare turtle bred by Steve Irwin’s son, learn about the death of the last Yangtze giant softshell turtle. Or, read about the Australian quokkas that smile and pose for selfies.

Hannah Reilly Holtz
Hannah Reilly is an editorial fellow with All That's Interesting. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Texas Tech University and was named a Texas Press Association Scholar. Previously, she has worked for KCBD NewsChannel 11 and at Texas Tech University as a multimedia specialist.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.