Isn’t she a lit­tle be­wdy

Bindi takes up wildlife chal­lenge af­ter Dad’s death

Townsville Bulletin - - Cowboys On Holidays -

IT’S a mighty bur­den for a lit­tle girl.

When Croc­o­dile Hunter Steve Ir­win died sud­denly and shock­ingly ear­lier this year, mil­lions of peo­ple around the world cried.

Af t e r t h e y s a i d t h e i r good­byes, they turned their eyes ex­pec­tantly to his eightyear-old daugh­ter Bindi.

Just like her Dad, Bindi has al­ways shown an un­bri­dled pas­sion for the an­i­mal king­dom.

Aus­tralia Zoo has been her sec­ond home since birth, and she’s demon­strated an affin­ity with an­i­mals that most of the pop­u­la­tion con­sider wor­thy only for their skins.

Add to this her ob­vi­ous intelligence and nat­u­ral con­fi­dence in front of the cam­era, and she seems to be the ob­vi­ous choice to con­tinue her dad’s con­ser­va­tion work.

But to some peo­ple the pres­sure to fill her dad’s enor­mous shoes is too much for some­one so young.

For all her en­thu­si­asm, she still is, af­ter all, a lit­tle girl try­ing to deal with the very pub­lic death of her fa­ther, her role model, and her clos­est friend.

Stephen Robert Ir­win died on Septem­ber 4.

The larger than life 44-yearold was film­ing an un­der­wa­ter doc­u­men­tary off the coast of Port Douglas, in far north Queens­land, when he was fa­tally struck in the heart by a stingray barb.

As news of Steve’s death spread rapidly around the globe, it was met with a tremen­dous out­pour­ing of grief from mil­lions who had never met the Croc Hunter, but still felt they had lost a good mate.

But for his im­me­di­ate fam­ily — wife Terri, kids Bindi and Robert, and fa­ther Bob — try­ing to grieve pri­vately in the midst of a most pub­lic tragedy was a trial.

Bob was the one who stepped up and took on the dif­fi­cult job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the fam­ily’s loss.

It would be weeks be­fore Terri would feel com­fort­able enough to speak about her grief, about los­ing her ‘prince’.

Terri lost her spark when she lost her hus­band, but Bindi’s ma­tu­rity and vi­va­cious­ness took on a life of its own.

She made clear her in­ten­tions to carry on her Dad’s work dur­ing her mov­ing trib­ute at the pub­lic me­mo­rial ser­vice held at the zoo.

‘ ‘ I don’t want Daddy’s pas­sion to ever end, I want to help en­dan­gered wildlife just like he did,’’ she said.

Since then, Bindi has adopted the role with re­mark­able dig­nity.

She’s reg­u­larly en­ter­tained kids at Aus­tralia Zoo, she’s con­tin­ued mak­ing her own na­ture doc­u­men­tary and has re­leased a fit­ness video, Bindi Kid­fit­ness, which shows her and Steve en­joy­ing one last ad­ven­ture to­gether.

She will also star in her own stage show in the US next month on a dou­ble bill with kings of kids en­ter­tain­ment, The Wig­gles.

Bindi is mat­ter-of-fact when she speaks about deal­ing with her grief, and ex­presses a com­plete faith that her daddy is watch­ing over her and guid­ing her through life.

Her un­wa­ver­ing en­thu­si­asm has stunned Terri, who re­cently took her to a psy­chol­o­gist be­cause she was con­cerned her daugh­ter had been ‘so happy’ since Steve’s death.

Bindi’s me­te­oric rise to fame has also at­tracted crit­i­cism from child psy­chol­o­gists anx­ious to see that she is not de­nied a ‘nor­mal’ child­hood.

But mostly peo­ple have ap­plauded the ease with which she has slipped into the role.

And those who know her best, Terri and Steve’s good friend and man­ager John Stain­ton, have al­ways main­tained that they would sup­port Bindi re­gard­less of what she chose to do.

Mr Stain­ton said re­cently that it was im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict where Bindi’s life would lead her, but he hon­estly be­lieved she was, at present, fol­low­ing her heart.

‘‘Who knows what she will want to do at age 12 or age 15, but at this point there’s no rea­son why she doesn’t and won’t fol­low ev­ery­thing that her Dad was pas­sion­ate about, and she is very pas­sion­ate about it,’’ he said.

Would Steve be proud of his daugh­ter’s com­mit­ment, and her plea to the world to stand up for the rights of an­i­mals?

‘‘Oh, God yeah, very much so.

‘‘She’s a whole­some lit­tle kid, she’s got great prin­ci­ples, she re­ally does love wildlife and as a role model for other kids she will do Steve proud,’’ Mr Stain­ton said.

But it’s not just Bindi who stepped up the con­ser­va­tion fight af­ter Steve’s death.

Since Septem­ber, more than 50,000 peo­ple have do­nated in ex­cess of $2.5 mil­lion to the Croc­o­dile Hunter’s con­ser­va­tion fund Wildlife War­riors.

Much of the money will help fund the zoo’s wildlife hospi­tal, and more still will fund projects like an ex­panded chee­tah preser­va­tion pro­gram in South Africa, which will start next year.

Wildlife War­riors has also re­ceived a fur­ther 90,000 in- quiries from in­di­vid­u­als, schools and com­mu­nity groups want­ing in­for­ma­tion about how they can get in­volved in con­ser­va­tion.

Sev­eral other sim­i­lar funds have also been set up in the US and Europe.

‘‘The rea­son why Steve was so suc­cess­ful was be­cause he al­ways gave a very sim­ple and con­sis­tent mes­sage: love wildlife, ap­pre­ci­ate what they are and how we need to pro­tect them,’’ head of Wildlife War­riors, Michael Hornby, said.

Mr Hornby said he be­lieved Steve’s pass­ing may have opened the eyes of peo­ple who may not have been fans of his work, but sud­denly re­alised the Croc­o­dile Hunter was gen­uine in his com­mit­ment and be­liefs.

‘‘He ac­tu­ally de­liv­ered on his prom­ises and I think peo­ple felt a much higher level of re­spect for him be­cause he kept it un­der wraps and was very hum­ble about it,’’ he said.

‘‘So that’s en­cour­aged peo­ple to say, ‘well now we’ve got an obli­ga­tion’.

‘‘They wanted some­thing that re­flects Steve’s com­mit­ment and en­thu­si­asm and very ba­sic but ac­tion-ori­ented approach, and I guess Wildlife War­riors has been seen as a ve­hi­cle that can do that.’’

It’s a re­sponse that would have had Steve shout­ing, ‘You lit­tle beauty’, Mr Stain­ton said.

‘‘He would have been to­tally as­tounded . . . he would have thought it amaz­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘He would have been shocked at the im­pact that his pass­ing has had on the world and the re­ac­tion with peo­ple get­ting be­hind the char­ity.’’

Bindi Ir­win has taken on the role va­cated by the death of her fa­ther Steve

Townsville Bul­letin

Tues­day, De­cem­ber 26, 2006

Terri, Bindi and Bob Ir­win at Steve’s me­mo­rial ser­vice

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