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Anger over Australia crocodile hunter's baby stunt
( 2004-01-05 10:35) (Agencies)

Celebrity crocodile hunter Steve Irwin triggered outrage when he held his 1-month-old baby while feeding a snapping crocodile during a show at his Australian zoo.

In a show for the public and the media Friday, Irwin held his son in one arm while feeding a dead chicken to a large, lunging crocodile then put the baby on the ground and helped him walk toward the reptile's pond.

In this television image, the 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin cradles his month-old son while feeding a 13-foot crocodile, Friday in Brisbane, Australia.  [AP]
Seven television network was inundated with calls after the incident was aired. Protests were lodged on a government families crisis line and with police.

Irwin also received a warning from child-care authorities.

"He's one month old, so it's about time Bob got out there and did his first croc demo," the typically exuberant, khaki-clad Irwin told the crowd at his zoo in Australia's Queensland state.

The Seven network said it had been flooded with calls about the incident, which revived memories of pop star Michael Jackson dangling his baby from the balcony of a Berlin hotel in November 2002.

"The phones ran hot, pretty much universally in outrage at what he had done," Seven news producer Dave Salmon told Reuters.

Irwin, supported at a media conference by his father Bob, wife Terri and 5-year-old daughter Bindi, told reporters he had been a safe working distance from the crocodile and that it was important to teach his children crocodile awareness.

"It is all about perceived danger. In front of that crocodile I was in complete control. Absolute and complete control. That is my profession," he said.

"I would be considered a bad parent if I didn't teach my children to be crocodile savvy because they live here, they live in crocodile territory."

Irwin's television show, "The Crocodile Hunter," has achieved international success. He starred in the 2002 movie "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course."

Queensland Acting Premier Terry Mackenroth said a government office for child welfare had spoken to the Irwin family to ensure there would be no repeat performance.

"I think that any parent looking at that would think that it is not the smartest thing to do with a one-month, or a year-old or even a five-year-old child, to take them inside a crocodile pen," Mackenroth told reporters.

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