Bindi Irwin Interview: Crocodile Hunter's Daughter Fulfilling Dad's Hopes and Dreams
Image attributed to Australia Zoo
An enthusiastic wildlife conservationist and award-winning international celebrity, Bindi Irwin was only three years old when she made her television debut on The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, a wildlife documentary series hosted by her dad, Steve Irwin.
The Australia native has been involved in acting, singing, songwriting, game show hosting and has an instructional fitness DVD. She is also known for winning season 21 of Dancing with the Stars, along with her partner, Derek Hough.
"I think that my dad was so amazing because he always used to say, 'I don’t care if anyone remembers me. I care if people remember my message.' He always said that he wanted his legacy to live on much longer than he would, and I really feel like he was able to spread the message of wildlife and conservation in such an amazing, unique way. He was really excited about not just talking about wildlife, but getting people involved. He was able to show everyone."
Bindi’s mother, Terri, the widow of Steve Irwin, runs the Australia Zoo. Irwin, nicknamed the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed on September 4, 2006, at the age of 44, by a stingray while snorkeling at Batt Reef near Port Douglas, Queensland. Bindi, along with younger brother Robert, lives and works with Terri at the Australia Zoo in Queensland.
Bindi Irwin: G'day! It’s Bindi here!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Bindi, how are you?
Bindi Irwin: I’m wonderful! How are you doing?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Great, thanks. How’s the weather over there?
Bindi Irwin: It’s really beautiful. We’re actually getting ready for winter. It’s coming in a little while, but the weather has been absolutely gorgeous, sunshine and just a little chilly. Where are you at the moment?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m in Birmingham, Alabama.
Bindi Irwin: Oh my goodness! I have to tell you. You have the most stunning accent on planet earth! It is so beautiful. At the moment, I’m at Australia Zoo, which is our home. It’s great to be able to talk to you all the way in Alabama.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The pleasure is mine, Bindi. I understand you recently introduced two brand new tiger cubs to the world.
Bindi Irwin: Our two tiger cubs decided to be born, and then another one was born just at the start of the month, so we were waiting for the perfect time. They were being so good that we had to announce it, which we’re thrilled about. They are hilarious.
They’ve gotten to that stage now, though, where they’re big enough to be able to wander around and not falling over all the time because they’re so little. They’re able to really walk around and meet people. They have a plush unicorn that they love to play with, and they’ll run around and chase after it. It’s hilarious, and we’re really excited about them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I read that Scout is a bit more affectionate than Delilah. Is this true in most species about the male, or can you generalize about anything like that?
Bindi Irwin: Well, it’s hard to tell, honestly, because each animal is so much its own being. They all have their own personalities, and truly, it’s like having kids. If you look at kids, you never quite know what to expect. I think a lot of it is just who they are. They are individuals. Scout is definitely very sweet and loving. Delilah can have her moments, especially when she’s sleepy. If she’s really tired, then she’ll be kind of snuggly, otherwise she likes to run around and beat up on her brother (laughs). It’s really cute.
It really does just depend. I’ve worked with so many different animals all over the world, and their personalities are just as unique as human beings. It’s beautiful to see. I think that’s why I love being here at Australia Zoo so much because I’m able to help inspire so many people to fall in love with animals that they may not necessarily think that they’ll like. We’re talking about animals like little alligators who have beautiful, soft, tubby legs or animals they wouldn’t expect to enjoy so much like wombats.
It’s so beautiful to be able to watch the connection because you can see it with everyone. Because we’re the most hands-on zoological facility on the planet, we put our animals first no matter what. People come in, and they are able to meet these animals, hug them, kiss them and love them, and then all of a sudden, you watch this connection form, and you see them fall in love. That’s what we’re seeing with our tiger cubs, the fact that they do have these unique personalities. People come to meet them, and then they can’t get enough. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s a normal day like for you?
Bindi Irwin: We live right in the middle of Australia Zoo. We are surrounded by over 1,000 animals. Our backyard consists of crocodiles on one side, tigers on the other, and a bird aviary on the other side of our house. We’re honestly surrounded completely, so we get out of bed every day, and we’re at work, which makes life really easy (laughs).
I’ve always been really, really involved here from the time I was little. My chores weren’t normal chores like loading the dishwasher. My mum always made sure I’d load the washing machine and hang the clothes on the line, but that also involves cleaning up elephant poo and helping to fold laundry at our wildlife hospital. As I’ve gotten older, using everything that I’ve learned working at the zoo from a young age, I’ve really been able to step into a larger role here. I’ve been working really closely with my mum and our director.
I’m looking forward to being 18 and having more responsibility with the management of Australia Zoo, continuing dad’s legacy and making sure we are able to expand and ensuring that all of dad’s dreams and hopes for the zoo’s future are actually carried out.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why do you think your dad is still so beloved all over the world even after his death?
Bindi Irwin: I think that my dad was so amazing because he always used to say, “I don’t care if anyone remembers me. I care if people remember my message.” He always said that he wanted his legacy to live on much longer than he would, and I really feel like he was able to spread the message of wildlife and conservation in such an amazing, unique way. He was really excited about not just talking about wildlife, but getting people involved. He was able to show everyone.
He would always tell me, “You have to be talking right into people’s living rooms. You have to bring them on the adventure to make sure that they’re among everything you’re doing, and they feel like they’re a part of it.” I think that’s why dad was so amazing. He was like a living hurricane. What you saw on television was exactly who he was in real life. That was dad every single day that I knew him.
My dad used to get up at 2:00 AM every single morning. Every morning at 2:00 AM, he would get up and start his day’s work. By the time we woke up as a family, he would’ve already done an entire day’s work, had been busy getting all the animals organized and working on his next construction project. He was just always going, always moving. I think that’s why he was able to achieve so much.
I know that I always looked up to him, and he was my superhero. I was amazed when he passed away just how many people were a part of our family because they had shared our journey. It was completely unexpected for myself and my mum. We had no idea just how many people dad was able to reach, and we were so grateful for it. We’re honestly grateful every single day that we have been able to share our lives with people from so many different places.
I think now is the time for us, as a family, to really remember dad. It’s coming up on 10 years since he passed away. We’re excited about new projects. We’re beginning a new chapter, and we’re bringing our Steve Irwin Gala Dinner, which has been held the last 10 years here in Australia, to America. We’re going to hold the Steve Irwin Gala Dinner in America or the very first time in LA. We’re thrilled to be fundraising for dad’s conservation work for the wildlife hospital here at Australia Zoo and just making sure his legacy lives on internationally.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your dad seemed fearless. You tweeted a photo of a python and didn’t seem to be afraid of it, so are there any animals that do scare you?
Bindi Irwin: (laughs) Actually back a few hundred years ago, if we were afraid of giant snakes, we’d have lived longer (laughs). I’ve grown up around pythons like that, so many crocodiles and all kinds of snakes and spiders and animals that people don’t necessarily think of as falling in love with (laughs). But they’re like my family.
My dad was someone who was always fearless with everything. Not many people know, though, he did have a small fear of parrots. He was a little bit nervous around parrots because, for some reason, he had some bad experiences just being around them. This one parrot grabbed his earlobe, thinking it was something to eat, and it kind of split his earlobe, so he was always a little bit wary of parrots out of all the animals (laughs). It’s just really funny.
Honestly, I’m real cautious around bees and wasps. They kind of terrify me. It’s because when I was a really little girl, I would rescue everything. I was one of those girls that, if I saw an ant line (one of those lines that cross a path), I would make people walk over it. I’d stand there at the zoo all day directing people over the ant line like a traffic controller. I rescued everything.
There was this little bee that I found on the footpath, and it had been stepped on. I felt terrible for it, so I picked it up to move it, and it stung me on the hand. My hand swelled to this huge proportion, and I just didn’t understand why the bee would do that to me when I was trying to save it. From that day on, I’ve always been a little afraid of bees and wasps. I appreciate them, and I know that we need them on our planet, but they do scare me (laughs). Do you have a favorite animal?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I love giraffes.
Bindi Irwin: Oh, we love giraffes. We have giraffes here at Australia Zoo, and we’re hoping that a couple of them are pregnant. They’re giants, and I feel bad for saying that because you should never say that to a woman who’s pregnant (laughs). But giraffes are so huge. You can’t tell if they’re pregnant or not, so they take a little while to figure out. You just have to see their behaviors to tell if they’re pregnant because they’ll get in these little mood swings.
We’re excited to have little giraffes. They’re so cute when they’re born. The giraffes next to the adults look tiny, but in all honesty, they’re about the height of a doorway. So it’s really deceiving because you look at them and think they’re these tiny little things, but they’re giants and so beautiful. We’re excited. We’ll have to let you now when they’re born.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’d love that. I know you’ve been homeschooled, Bindi. Have you graduated?
Bindi Irwin: I’ve actually just graduated, which I’m really thrilled about. I’ve graduated year 12, and I’m taking a few college courses. I just got my certificate in business, and I’m almost finished with a certificate in tourism as well. I was able to do homeschool education for most of my school life which worked out great because my mum and dad would travel all over the world.
We never wanted to be apart as a family, so I was able to take school with me. I’ve done school in trains, cars, planes and boats (laughs). But I’ve graduated now, and I’m grateful to be continuing my education and looking forward to working full time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also were able to attend a prom last year?
Bindi Irwin: It was really nice. My boyfriend is an American, and his prom was last year, and he invited me. I was really thrilled. My mum said, “You know, Bindi, I went to prom as well, and it was so wonderful for me. I need to get you to prom, too.” We flew over to the states, and I was able to go with him. It was fantastic. I was really lucky that I have been given the best of both worlds. I get to follow my dreams, and I also get to have so much fun along the way.
Here at Australia Zoo, all the keepers have kids, and I feel like I have this extended family, all of my friends that I’ve grown up with. It’s really fun, and I’m glad I got to experience an American tradition (laughs). I felt like a Disney princess because we have formals here in Australia, but they’re nothing like prom. I arrived as this little Australian girl in my heels trying not to fall over. I was amazed. It was just before I did Dancing with the Stars as well. I kind of wished I’d had that dancing practice when I went to prom, but it was alright.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Winning Dancing with the Stars was quite the accomplishment! What was the hardest part for you?
Bindi Irwin: It wasn’t just the dancing that was hard. I’d never danced before, but I really hadn’t spent much time in high heels. I put them on and fell over instantly, and it was kind of scary (laughs). It was the wardrobe and the heels as well as the dancing, but I was so glad that Derek (Hough) was there. He has just become such a brilliant friend, and he feels like an older brother. To be truthful, he is like my older brother. He was there every step of the way quite literally, and it was a lot of fun. We had a great time together.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any other projects or zoo events you’d like to mention?
Bindi Irwin: Just that I’m really excited to be back in the states again on May 21 for the Steve Irwin Gala Dinner. That’s going to be held in LA this year. We have Tom Bergeron and Olivia Newton John emceeing the event, and we’re going to have BC Jean performing. She’s Mark Ballas’ fiancée actually. Mark is one of the Dancing with the Stars pros. She’ll be performing “Roses and Violets,” which is a song that Derek and I danced to during our time on Dancing with the Stars. It’s a beautiful song, so we’re excited she’s going to come and perform. We’re going to have lots of Australian wildlife, and we’ll be raising funds for our wildlife hospital, which we’re really excited about.
We’re celebrating my birthday in July, and then we have our annual crocodile expedition coming up in August held at the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York. We’ve caught, and we’re tracking over 130 crocodiles in the Wenlock River to see where they go and what they get up to because the saltwater crocodiles are like living dinosaurs.
It’s work that my dad first started and that we’ve continued. It’s brilliant! We’ve learned so much about them, just incredible things like they can hold their breath over seven hours. It’s fascinating work. I’ve been busy writing recently. I’m working on my newest project, writing a book. I’m thrilled about that and just enjoying it every step of the way.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): A book?
Bindi Irwin: Yeah. Hopefully, it’ll be able to shed more light in the world. I’ll just be sharing some of my experiences and reaching out to others. That’ll be really fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me more about that special 18th birthday celebration coming up in July.
Bindi Irwin: We’re celebrating here at Australia Zoo. We’ll be hosting a big event here. All kids are free that day. I never like my birthday to just be about me (laughs). I like to include everybody, so it’ll be a “camping with the stars” theme. We’re going to have some really special guests come to Australia Zoo. I’ll be doing the crocodile show. We’re going to have a camping event where people can sleep at the zoo and spend some time with the animals. It’s all about getting outdoors and having fun with family and friends. It’ll be a really big day.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have won an Emmy, won Dancing with the Stars, have done some singing and songwriting and won Young Conservationist of the Year. What are your goals and dreams for the future?
Bindi Irwin: I’m really excited to see what is next for me and what’s on the horizon. I’m turning 18, and I feel like that’s a whole new chapter of my life. I’m still young, and yet I feel like I’ve lived 10 lives in one lifetime. I’ve been grateful for every chapter and every journey that I’ve been given. I think that everything that I have done has really shaped me to be the person I am today.
Through everything that I do, I really just try to inspire others, and I try to share that love and light and encourage more people to be able to stand up for what they believe in and to just remember that the meaning of life is unconditional love. I think that I always try to choose projects that will give me that opportunity to spread my message and share my journey with other people.
I’m excited about adulthood, and I can see it on the horizon. I know there will be more responsibility that comes with that, but I think that’s a wonderful, wonderful gift to have been able to use your voice so much and to be able to be put in a position where you do have the opportunity to affect other lives. It’s a gift, and I think about that every day.
I hope to do more filming projects because that’s the greatest way to be able to share my message, and it’s a beautiful platform to be able to reach out to others. We are always busy with our conservation work. Our non-profit organization, Wildlife Warriors, was started back in 2002 by my mum and dad, and now we have conservation projects all over the world helping tigers in Sumatra, elephants in Cambodia and rhinos in Kenya.
We have a wildlife hospital that has rescued and rehabilitated over 62,000 animals, and it’s only been open for about 11 years now. It’s a brilliant place. It’s kind of like the heart of our work because it was first opened in honor of Lyn Irwin, who was my dad’s mum. She passed away just before I turned two. She was a beautiful woman and a pioneer in wildlife care. When she passed away, my mum and dad wanted to make sure that her legacy lived on. The wildlife hospital has just continued to expand, and now we have the largest wildlife hospital in the world. It’s thrilling work. Whatever we do in life, it’s just to continue our conservation work.
I personally hope, as I get older, I can start tackling bigger issues facing our world today and just continue to try to empower the next generation, in particular, because those kids have a chance to change the world. I want to be able to really tell other kids that it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in. It’s okay to use your voice, and even though it may be a little bit daunting because there are so many people on the plant and you want to do a good job, you can believe in yourself.
If you have that little bit of belief, you can undertake and accomplish anything. I’m excited for what’s yet to come, hopefully more filming projects, more conservation work and just being with my family here at the Australia Zoo and following in dad’s footsteps.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Bindi, you are a delight! I wish for you only the best in life, and I hope you have a wonderful birthday!
Bindi Irwin: Thank you beautiful, and it has been truly wonderful to talk to you, honestly. I really appreciate it because you share so many stories, and it’s amazing. You’re changing the world! If you’re ever in Australia, please let us know because we’d love to have you come and visit us.
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