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Wife shock for Irwin croc park
- What’s in a name?

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 27: Steve Irwin’s widow has sent the Kerala wildlife department a legal notice for naming a crocodile park after him without her permission.

The notice, which was received last week, has stunned authorities, who claim they had invited Terri Irwin to the park’s inauguration in May 2007. She did not come.

Forest minister Binoy Viswam had announced naming the Crocodile Park at Neyyar, around 30km from here, in honour of the wildlife expert and conservationist shortly after his death in 2006 in a stingray attack while shooting a film off the Australia coast.

The Steve Irwin Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Centre at Marakunneth Agastya Nature Study Centre is within the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Set up on two and a half hectares at a cost of Rs 5 lakh, the centre mostly features crocodiles found in the marshlands of the subcontinent. The park has been renovated with an image of Irwin engraved on the entrance wall.

Law firm Rigby-King Lawyers has sent the notice on behalf of Terri and Australia Zoo Pty Ltd alleging that the use of the name and images of Steve for the park was an infringement of intellectual property rights, and wants the government to stop it immediately.

Chief conservator of forest (wildlife) K.P. Ouseph said his department had received the notice and was verifying its authenticity. “We have brought the matter to the notice of the advocate-general and will reply if the notice is found genuine.”

But Ouseph wondered why Terri didn’t send her objections earlier, when she was invited. “Since our intentions are clear, we will not do anything that Steve’s family reckons is improper,” said Ouseph.

The forest department thought Steve’s family was pleased with the naming and the gesture was seen here as a fitting tribute to the memory of the Australian conservationist.

The row is baffling also because there are memorials in his name elsewhere. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an NGO working for the conservation of marine wildlife, had named one of its vessels, MV Steve Irwin. Terri, who approved the renaming in December 2007, had said then: “If Steve were alive, he’d be aboard with them.”

The original crocodile park was started in 1977 as part of a national project for conservation of the reptiles. The aim was to rear them and release adults into their natural habitat. In 1985, the forest department released 25 crocodiles into the Neyyar reservoir but they started attacking locals and animals. A few lives were lost and some people escaped with severed limbs, forcing the foresters to stop further releases.

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