TV wildlife star Robert Irwin on keeping dad’s legacy alive as show set to launch in Middle East
DUBAI: The family of the late Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin, known as The Crocodile Hunter, has been keeping the television personality’s legacy alive.
His wife Terri and their children Robert and Bindi run the Australia Zoo and their work there is featured in the popular reality TV series, “Crikey! It’s the Irwins.”
Irwin died in 2006 after receiving a stingray injury in a freak accident, but his family has followed in his footsteps by taking care of animals from around the world.
And now season one of their hit TV show has launched on discovery+ via Starzplay in the Middle East and North Africa region.
The Irwin family is passionate about nature and Terri, Robert, and Bindi have dedicated their lives to promoting wildlife conservation and inspiring the next generation of young people to take an active part in protecting and preserving the natural world.
“Dad’s passion and enthusiasm and love for wildlife was just absolutely contagious,” Robert, 17, told Arab News.
“That’s why I am so passionate about wildlife conservation. It’s hard not to be passionate about wildlife when you had a dad like mine. So, I definitely think it is a really big honor to get to continue that legacy.”
Growing up at the Australia Zoo, Irwin’s son has been surrounded by animals for as long as he can remember. “When I was young, my parents nicknamed me The Moth Hunter. I was just super transfixed with chasing and catching moths,” he said.
Now in his late teens, the wildlife activist and award-winning photographer is responsible for a string of diverse and equally important tasks that include traveling around the globe to advocate for conservation, feed saltwater crocodiles, and check up on the zoo’s injured koalas at the family’s wildlife hospital.
“Life in the Australia Zoo is absolutely 100 miles an hour every single day,” he added.
When the Irwin family originally opened the Australia Zoo, it was a small reptile park, but it has since grown into a vast conservation area.
“We’ve really broadened our conservation reach, helping to support wildlife protection programs all over the world. We’ve secured over half-a-million acres of natural habitat and it’s become a really big, big program and a big hub for conservation,” Robert said.
When the family was forced to shut down the zoo for 78 days due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a change in focus was required.
“The pandemic had a really big effect on what we do here in Australia. We had to close our doors for the first time in 50 years. It was a really challenging and very stressful time for all of us, my whole family and for our whole routine.
“We had about an $80,000 a week food bill just to feed our animals alone. And, of course, no money coming in with no patrons. And so, it was really tough for a while there,” he added.
With the green light from the Australian government, the family was able to re-open the zoo’s gates with COVID-19 health and safety restrictions in place.
“We’ve now got social distancing signs everywhere and we have had to change our wildlife experiences to make sure everything is completely COVID-19 safe. But still, when people come into the Australia Zoo, they can still have a really fun and exciting day. You can still cuddle with koalas and rhinos – you just can’t cuddle with each other,” he said.
In addition to re-opening the wildlife sanctuary, the family is looking forward to welcoming the arrival of Bindi and her pro wakeboarder husband Chandler Powell’s first child, a baby girl.
Bindi, 22, announced her pregnancy to the world in January by recreating a maternity throwback photo her parents posed for while they were expecting Robert. Her family discovered she was expecting in an equally special way.
“After she called my mom and I and told us she was pregnant, Bindi wanted to share the news with the rest of the family and team. We were actually on our annual crocodile research expedition in remote bushland in northern Queensland, which is a three-day drive from the zoo and many kilometers away from any sort of civilization,” her brother said.
“We were sitting around a fire and Bindi just got up and told everyone about this exciting news. It felt very poignant because where we were is actually where dad used to catch crocodiles. It was his favorite place in the world, so it was very special.
“I just want this little girl to have the most fun, awesome, exciting life. Growing up in a zoo, it’s going to be pretty hectic. And I don’t know if she is ready for what’s about to come, but I want to get her in there, wrestling crocodiles and wrangling snakes and doing all the awesome things that we get to do. I might have to wait until she’s a little bit older, maybe until she can walk,” he added.