Bindi Irwin tells us what it was like growing up as part of the most famous wildlife family Down Under, plus which Australian critters she most misses when away from home…More about Wild Things
What was it like growing up among the animals at Australia Zoo?
We have over 1,200 spectacular animals here and we’re the most hands-on zoological facility in the world, so every day brings new adventure! The best part of life at the zoo is sharing the wildlife with our visitors. You can meet almost all of our animals personally: cuddle koalas, kiss rhinos, scratch Komodo dragons, feed lemurs, hold birds and snakes... I love watching our visitors connect with an animal.
Once you do that, you want to learn more about it and protect it for the generations to come. That’s what we’re all about here at Australia Zoo. My dad [conservationist and TV star Steve Irwin] always said that people want to save the things they love. We follow this philosophy and try to break down barriers, dispelling the myths people may believe about many species.
Your parents set up Wildlife Warriors Worldwide to involve people in supporting and conserving wildlife. What does being a Wildlife Warrior mean to you?
Being a Wildlife Warrior means speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves. It’s remembering that conservation is not just about cute and cuddly creatures, but also about wildlife such as crocodilians and sharks. Every species – from tiny jumping spiders to orangutans and turtles – has a special importance.
All creatures need our respect, concern and protection.
What have Wildlife Warriors achieved so far?
We have conservation properties throughout Queensland that support at-risk species, such as woma pythons, koalas and palm cockatoos.
In western Queensland, one of our researchers has just completed his yakka skink project. These lizards are vulnerable, so we hope that studying their behaviour and habitat will help us to protect them better. Another Australian project is looking for a cure for devil facial tumour disease, which has caused a massive decline in the Tasmanian devil population.
Farther afield, we support cheetah and rhino conservation in Africa, tiger and elephant conservation in south-east Asia, and we’re fighting for the protection of whales. I’m really pleased with breakthroughs we’ve made against the illegal hunting and trade of Sumatran tigers. We’re proud to have raised millions of dollars, all of which goes directly back into conservation work.
Do you miss Australian animals when you’re away from home?
When we’re travelling abroad, I miss echidnas the most. They’re such unusual animals, one of only two known egg-laying mammals [monotremes], the other being the platypus. It’s fun to feed them at the zoo: their long tongues tickle when they lick food off your hands! But I love spending time with North American species, too. Opossums are one of the most misunderstood animals in the USA – they’re actually super-sweet. I knew one who loved cuddles and kisses.
Do people’s views of wildlife/conservation differ in the USA to Australia?
I love the USA because everyone is so enthusiastic about making a difference. This year will mark our third annual Steve Irwin Gala Dinner event in Los Angeles, which is an enormous milestone for Wildlife Warriors as our first international charity gala. After my mirror ball win with Derek Hough on Dancing with the Stars, it was the perfect time to reach out to our international Wildlife Warriors.
What do you think of your brother’s wildlife photography? Do you have a favourite photo?
As a family we always try to support Robert and his extraordinary photography work. Robert creates the most inspiring masterpieces through his photos and every single one is unique and different. He has taken some mind blowing photographs but my all time favourite is a photo he took of a mother deer with her fawn looking for little bits of grass poking up on the snow covered ground in Oregon. It was a beautiful moment that Robert managed to capture.