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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Irwin cleared after penguin probe
Steve Irwin
Irwin is best known for his work with crocodiles
Crocodile hunter Steve Irwin has been cleared of breaching an Australian law which prohibits interacting too closely with Antarctic wildlife.

The Australian government launched an investigation over an Irwin documentary, which claimed he "slides down hills with penguins".

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said no further action would be taken.

"I have been told that after a proper examination... no action of any kind is necessary," he told Sky television.

Defended

Mr Howard denied the government had been lenient with Irwin because of his celebrity status.

"That is an absurd thing to say. The matter was examined properly and that was the conclusion," he said.

Irwin had strongly denied breaking wildlife protection rules in Antarctica, saying Australian environmental authorities had seen the footage and had approved it.

Steve Irwin holding baby son
Irwin was criticised for holding his baby near a crocodile

The rules state that visitors to Antarctica must stay at least five metres from seals and penguins. Swimming with whales is banned.

Promotional material for the documentary, called Ice Breaker, says: "He slides down hillsides with penguins, almost rubs noses with the notoriously dangerous leopard seals and spends the most inspiring time with two friendly humpback whales."

But Irwin described the investigation as "just a big storm in a tea cup", and insisted he had merely been "bobbing around" in the sea when the two whales approached him while he was sitting on an iceberg.

Environmental group Greenpeace has asked the Australian government to release the 18 hours of unedited footage for independent assessment.

Controversial

"If Steve Irwin and the government want to make the case that there's nothing to answer, then the easiest way of doing that is releasing the tape," said the group's oceans campaigner, Quentin Hanich.

"There are many scientists and environmental organisations around Australia that specialise in whale watching and there are great sustainable whale watching organisations in Australia that have a lot of expertise in the matter. Show the tape and they'll comment," he said.

Irwin outraged child welfare groups after cradling his one-month-old son Robert a metre away from a crocodile during a show at his Queensland zoo last year.

Irwin and his wife Terri maintained that their son was in no danger, but admitted there would be no repeat of his controversial performance.

No charges were made.




SEE ALSO:
Croc star's 'whale swim' probed
14 Jun 04 |  Entertainment
Controversial croc hunter up for award
06 Jan 04 |  Asia-Pacific
No charges after croc baby stunt
03 Jan 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Inquiry into croc baby stunt
03 Jan 04 |  Asia-Pacific


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