July 15, 2004 08:00 AM

“Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin was cleared by the Australian government on Thursday of allegations that he got too close to penguins, a seal and humpback whales in Antarctica while making a documentary, reports Britain’s SkyNews.

Coming too close to Antarctic wildlife carries possible fines of up to $720,000 and two years in jail, but after a month-long investigation by federal agents, Irwin, who denied any wrongdoing, was found not guilty by the Australian Environment Department.

“I have been told that after proper examination, a decision has been taken that no action of any kind is necessary,” Australian Prime Minister John Howard told SkyNews.

In its probe, the Australian Antarctic Division asked to see footage from Irwin’s documentary Ice Breaker, which (in its completed form) aired last month on America’s Animal Planet network.

In Australia, the Environment Department had expressed concerns that Irwin got too close to penguins, whales and leopard seals while filming last summer, but he insisted that the birds and mammals approached him, rather than the other way around.

Irwin, 42, also got into hot water in January when he held his 1-month-old son in one arm while he fed chicken to a crocodile with the other. Irwin insisted the infant was never in danger.

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