The Irwins’ primary intentions of establishing and running Australia Zoo are anything but commercial exploitation. They identified the zoo as an excellent means of protecting wildlife and educating the public about nature, with their ultimate goal being wildlife conservation.
Driven by their deep passion for nature and wildlife animals, Bob and Lyn Irwin (Steve’s parents) found Australia Zoo in 1970. While Bob was a fervent reptile lover, Lyn adored joey kangaroos, koalas and wombats. However, reptiles like crocodiles and snakes were often killed for their valuable skins, and since they were deemed dangerous to the human community anyway. Kangaroos and koalas were also often hunted and killed for their fur coats, or hit by cars along the roads. These incidents prompted the Irwins to set out to protect and shelter these wildlife animals at risk. Along the years, rogue crocodiles that could not be released back into the wild, were relocated to the zoo by Steve and Bob Irwin.
Apart from housing wildlife animals, Steve sees the zoo as a means for educating and promoting wildlife conservation efforts among visitors. Steve wished to share with the public the beauty of wildlife and provide visitors an opportunity to discover these animals. Hopefully, with a better understanding and appreciation for wildlife, it would incite the public’s interest to engage in conservation efforts thereafter.
“Conservation through education is vital. And I think one of the best ways to do that is through accidental learning. Kids can come to the zoo, have a great time and when they leave they’ve learned all sorts of things about the wildlife here, which then makes them think about how they can protect animals.”
– Bindi Irwin
Finally, it is important to note that generating profits from the zoo was not an end; rather, it was a means to an end – conservation. The Irwins’ topmost priority has always been wildlife conservation, and they used the financial profits from Australia Zoo to fund and further conservation projects.
“Their philosophy was that the Zoo animals came first, the Zoo team came second, and the Zoo visitors came third. With happy, healthy animals it seemed everyone came first… Their love for wildlife and their dedication to spreading the ‘conservation’ message is a 24-hour gig.”
– Various sources