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Crocodile hunter escapes charges

Irwin holds a dead chicken in one hand and his baby Bob in the other.
Irwin holds a dead chicken in one hand and his baby Bob in the other.

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'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin held his baby son about 3 feet from the mouth of a crocodile
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Steve Irwin
Crocodile Hunter

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia's crocodile hunter Steve Irwin has escaped charges after a storm of criticism erupted over him taking his month-old son to within a few feet of a feeding crocodile.

The televised incident sparked an investigation by the Queensland state Families Department over whether Irwin had breached workplace safety regulations.

The man known internationally as "The Crocodile Hunter" was branded as reckless and irresponsible by family and children's groups for the stunt Friday at his Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Australian Family Association spokesman Bill Muehlenberg said Irwin had no right to put his baby in peril, according to the Courier-Mail newspaper.

Parliamentarian Wayne Swan, the families spokesman for the Federal Opposition, called it a "very irresponsible action".

Another critic was more blunt.

"I think he's a bloody idiot," the owner of the rival Cairns Crocodile Farm, Keith Cook, told the Courier-Mail.

Irwin held his baby son Bob under one arm while he fed a 13-foot (4-meter) crocodile named Murray with a dead chicken. Irwin later walked the baby inside the crocodile's enclosure as crowds looked on.

The acting premier of Queensland state, Terry Mackenroth, said Saturday Irwin would not face charges after the Department of Families contacted Irwin and his wife Terri.

"They (the Irwins) claim that the child was not in danger. They understand people's concerns and have assured Children's Services that it won't happen again," Mackenroth told the Australian ABC radio service.

Television stations were flooded with complaints from callers after the incident appeared.

Irwin was shown on television telling the crowd that his son was now one-month old, so it was "about time Bob got out there and did his first croc demo."

Queensland Families Minister Judy Spence told the Courier-Mail newspaper that while she had no doubt the Irwins loved their children, it was "an error of judgment" to put a baby into a potentially dangerous situation.

Under workplace health and safety regulations, unauthorized people are not allowed to enter a crocodile enclosure which is part of a public display.

Irwin said his son was never in danger.

"I was in complete control of the crocodile. Robert was tucked right in my arm," the Courier-Mail reported him saying.

Irwin is best known domestically as a spokesman for the Australian government's quarantine campaign and as an enthusiastic proponent of wildlife and environmental protection.

Internationally he has achieved fame through his "Crocodile Hunter" character and the 2002 film "The Crocodile Hunter. Collision Course".

Irwin's stunt with his son has invoked comparisons with the bizarre actions of pop star Michael Jackson, who showed off his baby to fans by dangling him over a hotel balcony in Germany in 2002.

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