Bob, Steve, Wenniepoo

Copywrite Wendy Brady

BigDaddyCash hour...Yes! Are you doubly excited...BigDaddyCash hour...I have a story for you right from a little place in the mountains at Kenilworth, just so happened I was in the area, camping with family and friends and stepped upon all the love and action of dispersing extinct turtles back into the wild. This is my first attempt at this "journo" stuff so I hope it goes down all o.k.

A small crowd gathered, with their cameras and smiles... quite close and informal on the banks of the Mary River at Kenilworth Homestead, Queensland, Australia, on Sunday 26th January 2009...some in their togs, curious while swimming...others in suits who had driven especially to the redeveloping site, all happy to be present at such a victorious occasion. Unfortunately I was a day late it was only by pure accident...whilst out searching for the location of my fellow campers on the huge property, that I had happened upon the remote spot on the river and all the people involved.

So I was fully surprised to see Bob Irwin...up to his knees in water and absolutely thrilled to bits, to be apart of this momentous event, "It's a very special day releasing so many endangered turtles into the river", Mr Irwin said. Irwin was right in the thick of things, wading his way out to a clump of weeds...even with that famous Irwin smile he was not the star attraction, instead all eyes were on 53 baby Mary River Turtles. Their ages ranging from one week to 3 months, it was so wonderful seeing them get their first taste of freedom... in the wild after being bred in captivity. Slowly they were released in groups of three to the roar of the crowd.

Bob Irwin, a keen enthusiast of reptiles and the father of local legend Steve "Crikey" Irwin... now deceased from a StingRay barb, said "In all the years, I've been involved in wildlife conservation...30 odd years, I've never had the pleasure of being involved with returning endangered wildlife to the wild, he was so pleased he could volunteer his time and save the turtles from extinction. It's a great step forward today for all of us...he grinned ever so excited. Just knowing now that these tiny little creatures can grow up in such a wonderful spot on this river...finding a beaut place to breed, thrive and survive again.

He explained how turtles are usually overlooked in favour of the more media-friendly wildlife like koalas in Australia, so it's good to see these little fellows get their deserved fame. Twenty or more journos were there...snapping photographs for local newspapers and the television shows were videoing it all. Say something profound they said to Bob Irwin and he looked at them laughing and said "Crikey". At that very moment we realised how much Bob would of loved his son Steve helping him to distribute the turtles... in the glorious depths of the Mary River.

Bob opened Australia Zoo in 1970, a small reptile park at Beerwah with approximately 70 acres and in 1991...after teaching his son everything he knew, he retired and handed the family business over to him. Bob...presented Steve with his very own 12 foot long scrub python when he was only six years old, so you can just imagine this young boy walking around with a python around his neck...with no fear whatsoever of these things. Steve would catch fish and hunt rodents for his pets, instead of going to school and doing homework he was wrestling crocs in far north Queensland. So from a very young age Steve got up close and personal with every animal in Australia... you could think of, he became famous all over the world for these antics and unfortunately he died while filming Stingrays for his daughter Bindi's discovery show.

Before he died Steve went on to make his dream park, one of the most largest and fascinating parks in Australia's history now growing to over 300 acres. Anybody who knew him... will tell you he never once lost sight of his dream, everyday he envisioned its greatness and of a night you would find him up late writing his future goals for Australia Zoo down on paper, now his family are just following his notes and diary entries...he even left drawings. Steve's dream continues to grow... his park is now filled to the brim with reptiles, birds and animals, but its main attraction is the famous crocodiles, Steve caught courageously himself and relocated to the Park.

If you get a chance to go... in the main arena you will actually get to see crocodiles in captivity doing belly rolls, whilst feeding. I got to see Steve's wife Terri and his best mate Wes...doing the croc show in the holidays...Steve's son Robert Junior wanted to do the show but Channel Seven News Team were there and they haven't quite got over Steve and his controversial baby Robert had to just sit that one could see by his face he was eager to help his mum and Wes out. The only time he got to show his style was dancing in the crowd... to his sister Bindi and The Crocodile Men show.

Back to the Mary River Turtle Story...Bob said, "He hoped to release some Irwin Turtles (Elseya Irwini) in the future, discovered by Steve and Bob in North Queensland in the 1980's, which are also endangered. Graig and Gabrille Latta the founders of volunteer group AFTCRA have been breeding endangered turtles for years. They told the ever excited crowd it would be twenty years before these little ones can breed, that is why it is such a big deal for us today, it's not something everyone gets to do in their life. The white container looked quite small to house 53 turtles but Craig Latta said "Believe me I just marked and counted them all...there is definitely that many, they were only the size of an Australian twenty cent piece, so tiny to our world ".

After all the hype from the media about the Yangtzee Turtles in China...the most endangered in the world, I felt so privileged to be witnessing The Mary River Turtles being released. In China the elderly turtle pair failed to produce offspring...80 years old and 100 years old the delicate attempt to keep the species alive, became more disappointing when their eggs didn't hatch. Authorities said they can try again next year but for now it's all in the waiting game. Only 4 left...all in captivity, three males and one female, the chances of them breeding and surviving is very slim.

Late that afternoon when the crowd had all but vanished I was at my camp and I noticed a few kids by the waters edge...after a while they started the steep climb back to their camps with a small white container. I asked to have a look and there inside was 2 of the baby turtles. I explained how Bob Irwin..."Crikey" Steve's Dad, had just released them and the purpose of the whole process, of breeding them in captivity.

I was lucky they were nice children and after listening to me, returned the baby turtles to the water but sitting there sipping my coffee I couldn't help but wonder how many of that 53 would actually end up in peoples fish tanks over the years. I mean to say they were ever so cute to any child...I remembered when I was a child catching tadpoles at the local creek. Never once did we take into account we might be endangering the local frogs. Twenty years... it would take for the day these turtles would increase in numbers. I just wish I knew how many were likely to survive the dangers of fish, birds, children and all the other deadly characters, associated with our world.

BigDaddyCash has just joined the conversation throwing in valuable information...that these extraordinary Mary River Turtles have the smallest heads and largest hind feet of all the species in the marine catchments, which contributes to its distinction of being the fastest swimming turtle in existence. Also the largest of its species when it reaches maturity...BigDaddyCash in the face of this terrible judgement on these turtles, we might have to call on God to get in touch with Noah..."Come little Turtles into the ark of safety---come."

Well! BigDaddyCash hopefully those great assets... of these distinct Mary River Turtles will also help with their breeding, they will be able to swim fast and grow huge... to get away from all of their evil predators, or too friendly children. Well! BigDaddyCash... I'm glad you opened this up to more discussion anybody else who can throw some information this way, we will be forever grateful. Yes! It is true... nothing will get in the way of us bringing you great stories, anybody still thirsting in his soul for fulfillment I look forward to bringing you a new story soon, so until the next one, it's Wenniepoo sending love to all and signing off, see yah! mate. "Crikey" did that sound alright... Hey, little mate not another one, how about putting that little fella back, or I might have to wrestle you like I wrestle my crocodiles. (Looks like "Crikey" Steve might have to do a shift or two, as well).