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Irwin takes baby to crocodile feeding
( 2004-01-03 09:35) (Agencies)

Before a crowd of onlookers at his reptile park in Beerwah, north of Brisbane, Irwin on Friday cradled his month-old son, Robert, under one arm and dangled a piece of chicken from the other in front of a 13-foot crocodile.

'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin hold his baby son, Bob, after he held him while feeding a giant crocodile at Queenland Zoo in Queensland, Australia, January 1, 2004. Irwin defended the stunt, saying the baby was never in danger, but he now faces possible investigation by Queensland police who confirmed they had received complaints from the public. Footage taken January 1. [AP]
The croc quickly snapped up the meat.

"Good boy, Bob," Irwin said once the crocodile's jaws snapped shut, according to the tabloid Herald Sun.

The moment was also captured by Channel 7 and Channel 10, with viewers later jamming phone lines to express outrage at Irwin's actions, media reports said.

The stunt drew comparisons with singer Michael Jackson handling of his infant son in Berlin in November 2002.

The newspaper The Australian called Irwin's "a bizarre act at his Sunshine Coast zoo that mirrored Michael Jackson's dangling of his newborn over a balcony."

Irwin defended his actions, saying the tot was never in danger.

"I was in complete control of the crocodile. Robert was tucked right in my arm," said Irwin, the Herald Sun reported on Saturday.

His American wife, Terri, who handed the baby over to Irwin in the enclosure and giggled at the spectacle, agreed.

"It was a wonderful sensory experience for him (the baby). He dug it," she said.

Child support and family groups said Irwin's behavior was almost like child abuse and he should never have exposed his son to such peril.

"Most parents would cringe at the sight of such things," Bill Muehlenberg of the Australian Family Association told the Herald Sun. "One slip, one fall and he is the crocodile's lunch."

Irwin's danger-filled wildlife programs are carried in the United States by the Animal Planet network and he starred in the popular 2002 comedy, "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course."

The gregarious Irwin was among the few to score an invitation to Prime Minister John Howard's barbecue for visiting President Bush in October.

His Australia Zoo reptile park also is a big tourist attraction.

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