Wildlife Man David Ireland Talks Feeding Grey Nurse Sharks, Boating Off Cronulla & The Kimberleys

13 March 2013
Read Time: 2.9 mins

The career of accomplished adventurer and conservationist, David Ireland started completely by chance in the waters off Cronulla, in the south of Sydney.

"I used to own a dive shop in Cronulla, teaching people to dive. It was on one of the diving trips that I found a cave that was home to 10 grey nurse sharks. I was intrigued by the animals - I wanted to find out everything I could about them so I started hand feeding these sharks. I documented all sorts of information that nobody knew before such as their body language, when they become aggressive, the strange way they cracked their tail, and I found out what fish they liked. I did a lot of work with them," said David.

"Channel 9 heard what I was doing and sent a film crew down to film me hand feeding the sharks. We dived towards the cave but the cameraman panicked at the sight of the sharks, dropped the camera and swam to the surface. I picked up the camera and with fish in one hand and a camera in the other, I filmed the sharks eating from my hand. The footage then went live all over the place. It was the filming of those sharks that really kicked off my career. I have made 150 shark films since."

David Ireland David with a Snake

David Ireland is one of Australia's most prolific wildlife adventurers, who was travelling through the Australian outback and filming Australia's fantastic wildlife including crocodiles long before Steve Irwin became a household name.

"In 1985, I registered and owned the name Crocodileman. I did a drama/documentary film that went worldwide on the Discovery Channel in 1990. The film also did a record-breaking 12 month run in certain cinemas in Australia. It was a very successful. When Steve kicked off with his first series in 1996, I was already doing numerous films for television. He then registered the name Crocodile Hunter. However, because the names were so similar, I decided to stop using Crocodileman and started using the Wildlife Man. I've now made 44 films under the Wildlife Man brand that have been broadcast throughout Australia on WIN/Channel 9 and worldwide on various international channels."

When Flight Centre caught up with this veteran traveller, he was filming on location in Rylstone, just inland from the New South Wales Central Coast; his latest hour long film, the third in the latest Wildlife Man series, will examine feral animals such as wild pigs, camels, feral goats, cats and rabbits. It generally takes around six months to film and edit a 60-minute episode ready for broadcast. There are 21 episodes slated for this current series, which begs the question - Will David ever put the lens cap on the camera for the final time?

"One day. I'm currently 65 and I train at Fitness First five days a week for almost two hours a session. I need to be strong and fit for what I do. There really is nothing I can't do now including scuba diving. I can still hold my breath for four minutes on a dive. I've had some injuries along the way, including having my back broken by a whale when she brought her tail down on me. But that's to be expected in my line of work. The worst thing that's happened to me is that a girl broke my heart when I was a youngster," he said.

"I have to admit that my job to me is so much fun that if I take two weeks off I want to go back to work. But to relax, I love spear fishing and taking the boat out with my family off Cronulla. I just love the ocean."

David Ireland David with a Crab

David feels especially privileged that he's managed to dedicate his life to drawing attention to the plight of our native animals and that he can continue to make documentaries showcasing the diversity of wildlife we need to protect.

"Throughout my life I have highlighted the problems that native animals have to survive in the modern world; whether it's as a result of habitat destruction, feral animals or agriculture. I'm proud of my career and feel lucky enough to put this message into the lounge rooms of millions of people around the world - that is the thing that I am most happy about. You want to educate people but you want to make films that are also entertaining. On a personal level, the proudest thing I've ever done is to father my four terrific kids and now I have a grandson, Oscar."

Having explored so much of Australia, it is particularly difficult for David to nominate a favourite destination around the country.

"The Great Barrier Reef is very special to me. I love Kangaroo Island and Western Australia is so magical especially The Kimberley region, which is like going back in time. I love Exmouth where you can swim with whale sharks. I think the coastline around Albany is really spectacular - you can see humpback whales only 50 metres from the beach. But I also love the red outback; Broken Hill is fantastic. There are so many wonderful places to go in our country."


Watch the Australian Safari with David Ireland Trailer  

Lyndon Barnett

Guided by curiosity and a sense of adventure, Lyndon travelled independently to 69 countries on six continents. As such, travel is Lyndon's only addiction. He enjoys with equal measure - scaling the peaks of a South American mountain at altitude, attending opera in a European Opera House or hunting for a bargain in an Asian market.