Never Smile At A Crocodile: Crocodile Hunter Wars "Down Under"

Never Smile At A Crocodile: Crocodile Hunter Wars "Down Under", by Greg Tingle

The surface smiles of the Australian Crocodile industry are purely superficial. Trouble is brewing and the teeth are about to be exposed…

Australia enjoys a rich and illustrious crocodile industry, and, until recently, everyone was smiling - no longer. With Australia's media and public offside, our most famous "Crocodile Hunter", Steve Irwin, has found himself in the deep end. And a new challenger, an authentic crocodile hunter is emerging; "Crocodile" Mick Pitman And as Mick succinctly puts it , "he's gonna blow the industry outta the water!"

Despite concentrated media and marketing campaigns and ploys, backed up with political clout, Australia is home to dozens of authentic crocodile hunters. We seem to breed them!

It's an egotistical industry. Most crocodile hunters like to think they're "the best". And then there's Steve Irwin, the self-proclaimed "Crocodile Hunter" and "Greatest Wildlife Warrior"! Full of self-promotion, he's rocking the boat with authentic crocodilian practitioners both nationally and abroad.

The crocodile hunting (and zoo keeping) industry (to include our friend), is full of characters - some more fair dinkum and above board than others. There are even a few living legends that win pseudo government awards. Some crocodile hunter know how legit and real they are, other's insist on turning up for political rally's, and are what's know in the industry as "media tarts".

We are all aware of one Steve Irwin's antics, but there's much more to our reptile loving friends that one man. Take the late, great, "The German" Jack Kiel, who showed the ropes to "Crocodile" Mick Pitman (on a case of beer deal), "Crocodile Safari Man" Keith F. Adams, who crossed Australia in a Buick, John Lever (who recently let "the big one" get away on a Hong Kong expedition), and a host of others.

The spotlight, or rather blowtorch, is on the crocodilian and related industries after a series of high profile happenings and stunts, ranging from a baby used as a human prop in a public exhibition, political remarks by a "hunter", Irwin allegedly whale riding (later dismissed), and this past September, a new scandal, perhaps the most serious, a legally included document was forwarded from the Irwin's management to "Crocodile" Mick Pitman, requesting he cease referring to himself as a "Crocodile Hunter"! Crikey Irwin, that is Pitman's job description, and has been for the past 26 years no less.

Expectedly, Pitman was none too happy, and promptly telephoned Irwin's legal, administrative (and film making) division, "The Best Picture Show". Mr John Harrison and Mr John Stainton didn't provide any joy, so Pitman, the straight shooting and fair dinkum Aussie that he is, made efforts to contact Steve Irwin at Australia Zoo, with a view to resolving their crocodile hunting (and naming rights) differences. A woman who took the call (and wouldn't provide her name) dismissed Pitman as a "looney" and "a hoax", after he requested to speak to Steve, Pitman admits he became abusive, letting fly with, "I want to speak to Steve or I will blow Australia Zoo out of the water by going to the media".

The Irwin's then devised a hostile act of aggressiveness and ill will towards Pitman and his livelihood, that later saw the water reaching boiling point, and a feeding frenzy like never before.

Before you could say "Crikey" (another name Irwin is shoring up legally), Irwin organised Queensland Police to pay Pitman a friendly visit (a raid), at his Bundaberg home. The police found nothing. Pitman wasn't charged. The policemen were seen leaving having a chuckle, knowing that Pitman wasn't really a danger to public utilities (or Australia Zoo), in a terrorist capacity no less!

Pitman passionately and rightly says, "I am not a terrorist. I find the allegation sickening, especially in view of recent events in Indonesian and Russia. Is there no limit to the depths that Irwin and his henchmen will go? Irwin is not a crocodile hunters *@#$%hole. He's a Money Hunter, and the whole industry knows it!"

Having now regained his composure, Pitman (and other authentic crocodile hunters) have devised a plan All 'real' crocodile hunters will have the right to refer to themselves by their occupational title, and "legal eagles", many of which are backing Pitman, believe Irwin may actually have to relinquish the name, "The Crocodile Hunter" Technically, he's a "crocodile trapper", "wildlife trapper". And crocodile and wildlife film maker.

Acting On legal advice, Pitman is told this scandal goes all the way up to ACCC, I.P. Australia and the highest office in the land, with allegations even including insider trading.

Pitman and his partner can't get any straight answers out of ASIC or I.P. Australia as to how "The Crocodile Hunter" could be registered, as "the" is a generic name, as is "crocodile hunter", and furthermore, Pitman is adamant that to call yourself a crocodile hunter, "you need to have at least made 1 kill (of a crocodile), and I've mad thousands, whilst Irwin's made none, or at least none that he will admit to. Irwin has some other interesting hobbies that contradict his public profile, but that's another story, and I have hunters ready to speak out about this also".

For authentic crocodile hunters like Pitman, the current spotlight and turbulence in the crocodilian industry can only be a good thing. Pitman rightly has much to be optimistic about. "I have nothing to loose with there crocodile hunter ways. I'm an authentic crocodile hunter whose been doing my thing for 26 years. The "coppers", indigenous people and the community at large are backing me up on this all the way".

When pressed on the legalities and potential monetary aspects, Pitman says with authority and conviction, "You can't get blood out of a stone. Do I look scared to you? I've been dealing with the croc industry for decades, including surviving the very real underworld elements, and things that go bump in the night. The fuss about who and who can't refer to themselves by their occupation, "Crocodile Hunter", is criminal, and is against the Australian way of thinking and conducting oneself. All Australian authentic crocodile hunters and the Australian workforce in general, especially legal and human resources experts need to be watching this space very closely. Potentially we're looking at a class action - "Mick Pitman and authentic crocodile hunters of Australia VS Steve Irwin aka "The Crocodile Hunter". If I were Toyota Australia or Discover Communications, I'd be pretty worried right now.

This writer believes it won't be that long until hunters like Pitman can forget about the naming woes, and Steve Irwin may be soon calling himself "The Artist Formally Know As The Crocodile Hunter". Speaking of the artistic profession, Mr Steve Rackman, professional wrestling legend, and actor, who played "Donk" in the 'Crocodile Dundee' movies, is yet another fair dinkum "Aussie" that believes Pitman has nothing to worry about.

Pitman reinforces his argument, in his fair dinkum Aussie lingo (not an act), "I'm the real deal, no dolls or stuffed toy animals here, and I don't swim with whales of ride surfboards either. If you want to see what it's all about mate', pack your gear, a riffle and a few rounds, a few kegs. I'll take you on a real crocodile hunting expedition, but I will need you to sign off the legals first. I'm from the bush, but I'm also boardroom savvy and a bit of a legal eagle. You know, I've never lost in the field, or in a court house. I've got the killer instinct, you know mate. The feeding frenzy has only just begun".

Yes, the teeth are out and the chewing and devouring are about to begin. And crocodile showman aka "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, is on the menu. It's mastication time!

The Players

"Crocodile" Mick Pitman, authentic crocodile hunter, author, poet and martial artist

Michaela Johnston, life and business partner of Mick Pitman

"The Crocodile Hunter" Robert "Steve" Irwin, director, 'Australia Zoo'

Terri Irwin, life and business partner of Steve Irwin

John Stainton, director, 'The Best Picture Show Company'

John Harrison, 'The Best Picture Show Company'

Greg Tingle, business adviser to Mick Pitman

Keith F. Adams, crocodile hunter, and another client of Greg Tingle's

Steve Rackman, actor and professional wrestling legend (played "Donk" in 'Crocodile Dundee' movies, and another client of Greg Tingle's

Grahame Webb, director, The Crocodile Specialist Group

The Organisations

Australia Zoo

The Best Picture Show Company

Toyota Australia

Mediaman (Greg Tingle's media company)

Australian Government (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Department of Tourism and National Parks and Wildlife Service, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Department of Environment and Heritage, Queensland Department of Family Services, IP Australia, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, to name but a few)

Discovery Communications (including 'Animal Planet')

*Disclaimer: The author does have a business relationship to "Crocodile" Mick Pitman, and has been following "The Crocodile Hunter" scandals for a number of years.

Copyright: Greg Tingle 2004


"Crocodile" Mick Pitman

"The Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin

Australian Zoo

"Crocodile Safari Man" Keith F. Adams


The Crocodile Specialist Group

Discovery Communications - Animal Planet

Crocodile Hunter blogger