By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 05, 2004 01:00 PM

A highly emotional Steve Irwin, star of “The Crocodile Hunter,” appeared on Monday’s “Today” show and defended his actions of last week, when he held his one-month-old son, Bob, in one arm while he fed Murray, a 13-foot crocodile, in the other during a show at his Queensland zoo in Australia.

Child welfare groups expressed their outrage en masse. Irwin, 40, told “Today”: “I applaud those people for thinking that. That’s saying everyone’s an expert, and that’s the democratic way. But … I am so hurt, and so sorry and in such pain that people were scared.”

He also said that his family is used to growing up with crocs, “and I am in complete, 100 percent control.”

“Today” host Matt Lauer suggested to Irwin that animal trainers are never always in control, and cited the incident involving Roy Horn (of Siegfried & Roy) and a white tiger last Oct. 3.

Irwin, his temper rising, insisted that he was safer with a croc than most drivers are on the open road.

According to the reports from Down Under and elsewhere, the acting Queensland premier said no charges would be filed against Irwin.

“The Irwins… have assured children’s services that it won’t happen again,” Terry Mackenroth said, adding, “There won’t be any charges brought against him. The department of children’s services have done what they needed to do, to contact the family and to talk to them about it.”

Australia’s Families’ Department confirmed it was seeking unedited copies of the tape from the Irwin family to assess whether any workplace health and safety regulations were breached.

“I have seen the television footage and while I have no doubt the Irwins love their children very much, I believe it was an error of judgment to place a baby in a potentially dangerous situation,” said Families’ Minister Judy Spence, as quoted by the BBC.