Isn’t she a little bewdy
Bindi takes up wildlife challenge after Dad’s death
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
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Terri, Bindi and Bob Irwin at Steve’s memorial service