STEVE’S LEGACY

DE­SPITE LOS­ING THEIR WILDLIFE WAR­RIOR 11 YEARS AGO, THE IR­WINS CON­TINUE TO CHAM­PION WILDLIFE CON­SER­VA­TION

Life & Style Weekend - - READ - WORDS: LAYNE WHIT­BURN

On Septem­ber 4, 2006, the world lost a leg­end – Steve Ir­win. Terri lost a hus­band, Bindi, 19, and Robert, 13, lost a fa­ther and they all lost a gi­ant piece of their hearts … but they didn’t lose their pas­sion for wildlife con­ser­va­tion. This Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 15, is Steve Ir­win Day. A day full of khaki, fun, fam­ily and keep­ing Steve’s legacy alive – to pro­tect and care for our wildlife. Look­ing back at the past 11 years of life with­out Steve, it is ev­i­dent the Ir­wins, along­side their ded­i­cated team of 430 con­ser­va­tion­ists at Aus­tralia Zoo, are do­ing Steve proud. From open­ing a new Wildlife Hos­pi­tal at Aus­tralia Zoo to un­der­tak­ing na­tional re­search as well as in­ter­na­tional projects and much more, Terri said their most re­cent wildlife con­ser­va­tion project goes back to where it all be­gan – be­hind the cam­era. “We have just signed on with Dis­cov­ery Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and An­i­mal Planet in the US to be­gin film­ing with them again,” Terri said. “We are so proud to be able to work to­gether as a fam­ily to take the mes­sage of con­ser­va­tion to an even larger au­di­ence.” From The Croc­o­dile Hunter days to grow­ing a wildlife em­pire, Steve’s legacy has been passed onto his wife and chil­dren to con­tinue. Bindi said wildlife con­ser­va­tion is in her blood. “Grow­ing up trav­el­ling all over the world, work­ing with dif­fer­ent con­ser­va­tion projects, re­ally in­stilled the pas­sion within me to make a dif­fer­ence,” Bindi said. “Since I can re­mem­ber I have wanted to be just like my par­ents and carry on all of the ex­tra­or­di­nary wildlife con­ser­va­tion work that they started.” Robert is fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­step by us­ing his cre­ative skills to show­case the beauty of na­ture via the in­ter­na­tional lan­guage of pho­tog­ra­phy. “I be­lieve that wildlife con­ser­va­tion and wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy go hand in hand, as an im­age can in­spire view­ers to love wildlife and our mag­nif­i­cent nat­u­ral world, which we ul­ti­mately want to pre­serve for the fu­ture,” Robert said. Just as Steve was pas­sion­ate about wildlife con­ser­va­tion, Terri said Steve was also a keen wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher. “Robert is so much like Steve, my phone can’t tell them apart when I’m search­ing for a photo of one of them. And Robert couldn’t have known that Steve was also pas­sion­ate about pho­tog­ra­phy, as Robert was only two years old when Steve died,” Terri said. Robert said it brings him joy know­ing he is fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s footsteps and con­tin­u­ing his con­ser­va­tion mes­sage through his pho­to­graphs. The Ir­wins also built a new Wildlife Hos­pi­tal which opened on Steve Ir­win Day, Novem­ber 15, 2008. This ground-break­ing fa­cil­ity en­ables Aus­tralia Zoo to treat greater num­bers and more va­ri­ety of wildlife that come in sick, in­jured or or­phaned. “The hos­pi­tal Steve and I first opened treated 65 pa­tients in its first year. Now we’ll treat over 7000 an­i­mals in a sin­gle year,” Terri said. Bindi said of all their con­ser­va­tion projects, the Aus­tralia Zoo Wildlife Hos­pi­tal is the clos­est to her heart. Steve and Terri first opened the hos­pi­tal in 2004, in mem­ory of Steve’s mum, Lyn Ir­win. “Since the hos­pi­tal first opened in 2004, we have treated over 72,000 an­i­mals, a record we are re­ally proud of,” Bindi said. The Wildlife Hos­pi­tal is also ac­tively con­duct­ing re­search to try and find bet­ter treat­ment for wildlife, in­clud­ing tri­alling a new vac­cine to pro­tect koalas from chlamy­dia. Plus, it is a teach­ing hos­pi­tal, work­ing with ve­teri­nary med­i­cal teams from around the world. They also have a Res­cue Unit which re­sponds to some 50 calls a day. “Fur­ther afield, we now have three con­ser­va­tion prop­er­ties in Queens­land pro­tect­ing more than 450,000 acres of im­por­tant habi­tat. And our in­ter­na­tional pro­grams are pro­tect­ing chee­tahs in South Africa, black rhi­nos in Kenya, tigers in Su­ma­tra, ele­phants in Cam­bo­dia, and we work to stop the il­le­gal trade of wildlife through­out our Aus­tralasian re­gion,” Terri said. Terri re­vealed plans for Aus­tralia Zoo to open a camp­ground so their guests can visit for more than a day. “We hope to bring more vis­i­tors to the Sun­shine Coast and sup­port their stay,” Terri said. “We have learned that 70% of our in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors come to Aus­tralia specif­i­cally with a wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence in mind. “We have plans to de­velop more eco tours for shar­ing our beau­ti­ful coun­try and its wildlife. Think Africa. South Africa has made their ‘big five’ a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try. “I think we are un­der­selling the most spec­tac­u­lar part of our coun­try with its breath­tak­ing land­scape and in­cred­i­ble wildlife.” By shar­ing their back­yard of more than 1200 an­i­mals with as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, the Ir­wins hope to grow their fa­ther’s mis­sion to pro­tect wildlife and in turn, the planet. “With our ev­ery-ex­pand­ing hu­man pop­u­la­tion, the Earth’s en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife are un­der con­stant threat of ex­tinc­tion,” Robert ex­plained. “It is im­per­a­tive that we con­tinue my dad’s legacy and spread his mes­sage of con­ser­va­tion to in­spire as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to love our nat­u­ral world and make a dif­fer­ence to save it. That is the only way we will pre­serve our world for the fu­ture.” Terri said they are learn­ing more ev­ery day about the ef­fects of hu­man over­pop­u­la­tion, pol­lu­tion, and the de­struc­tion of the nat­u­ral world. “It is my pas­sion to help re­store bal­ance and pro­tect our frag­ile en­vi­ron­ment, which will ul­ti­mately pro­tect hu­mankind.” Terri said. “A re­port re­cently re­leased in The Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal in­di­cated that en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion is killing more peo­ple ev­ery year than all the war and vi­o­lence in the world. The fi­nan­cial cost from pol­lu­tion-re­lated death, sick­ness and wel­fare is $4.6 tril­lion in an­nual losses - or about 6.2pc of the global econ­omy. “We are in­cred­i­bly lucky here in Aus­tralia with clean air, fresh drink­ing wa­ter, and an abun­dance of wildlife. I want to make sure we work to­gether to pro­tect our beau­ti­ful na­tion and im­prove the sit­u­a­tion in other parts of the world.” Robert said it is won­der­ful to see peo­ple in­ter­act­ing with wildlife and re­con­nect­ing with na­ture. “I also think in­ter­act­ing with an­i­mals makes you a bet­ter per­son, be­cause if you are kind to an­i­mals you will be kind to peo­ple as well,” he added. “Spend­ing time with an­i­mals also seems to some­how make you feel calmer giv­ing you a bet­ter out­look in gen­eral. In our mod­ern, tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced so­ci­ety it seems like peo­ple, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, are be­com­ing more dis­con­nected with an­i­mals and na­ture.” Bindi said when you truly con­nect with an an­i­mal, you want to learn more about it and pro­tect it for gen­er­a­tions to come. The Ir­wins en­cour­age ev­ery­one to spend some time with na­ture this Steve Ir­win Day. Whether it’s join­ing the Ir­wins for an ac­tion-packed day planned at Aus­tralia Zoo or sim­ply wear­ing a touch of khaki to help cre­ate aware­ness, and en­cour­age friends,

fam­ily, neigh­bours and of­fice mates to get in­volved by do­nat­ing to Wildlife War­riors. Wildlife War­riors and Aus­tralia Zoo aside, the Ir­wins re­mem­ber their hero like any other fam­ily would. “Pri­vately, Bindi, Robert and I be­gan a fam­ily tra­di­tion to make sure we stay pos­i­tive and ap­pre­cia­tive even though we are deal­ing with our grief ev­ery day,” Terri said. “In the evening, as we are get­ting ready to go to sleep, we all re­call our favourite part of the day and a good deed that we did that day. I think we should make kind­ness a habit. And I know that Steve would want us to be happy.” Bindi said, “We love watch­ing all of the doc­u­men­taries to re­mem­ber Dad. It’s so much fun to re­live fam­ily mem­o­ries by watch­ing The Croc­o­dile Hunter se­ries.” “Dad was the great­est Wildlife War­rior on the planet and cer­tainly changed the world. His pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to wildlife con­ser­va­tion in­spired so many peo­ple,” Robert said. “He showed how one per­son can make a big dif­fer­ence on the planet and cre­ate pos­i­tive change. Steve Ir­win Day is all about cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery­thing my dad was pas­sion­ate about. “It is all about re­mem­ber­ing Dad’s in­cred­i­ble con­ser­va­tion mes­sage and ev­ery­thing he did for wildlife and wild places all around the world. “We want to con­tinue this amaz­ing work, en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­one to join in to make the world a bet­ter place.”

PHOTO: AN­NETTE DOYLE

Robert, Steve and Bindi.

PHOTO: AUS­TRALIA ZOO (AR­CHIVES)

The Ir­win fam­ily on a croc trip, 2006.

PHOTO: ROBERT IR­WIN

Croc­o­dile trip.

PHOTO: BEN BEADEN

Robert, Bindi and Terri cel­e­brate Bindi's 19th birth­day at Aus­tralia Zoo.

PHOTO: BEN BEADEN

Bindi feed­ing Monty.

PHOTO: RUS­SELL SHAKE­SPEARE

Croc­o­dile trip, 2012.

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