DESPITE LOSING THEIR WILDLIFE WARRIOR 11 YEARS AGO, THE IRWINS CONTINUE TO CHAMPION WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
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.”
Robert, Steve and Bindi.
The Irwin family on a croc trip, 2006.
Robert, Bindi and Terri celebrate Bindi's 19th birthday at Australia Zoo.
Bindi feeding Monty.
Crocodile trip, 2012.