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The conservationist is celebrating her late dad's memory

Bindi Irwin’s biggest honour for her dad Steve - nearly 17 years after his death

Lily Waddell
Premium Content Editor
17 April 2023
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Almost 17 years have passed since Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray while filming in the Great Barrier Reef, but not a day goes by when his daughter Bindi Irwin doesn’t think of him. And, as she tells HELLO! during a moving exclusive to mark World Earth Day, she hopes he's looking down upon her and would be proud of everything their family have achieved in honouring his legacy.

The devoted Wildlife Warrior, 24, fondly remembered her dad, 'The Crocodile Hunter', and championed continuing his mission to stand up for animals everywhere.

"It's hard to believe it’s been over 16 years since he passed away," the conservationist told us. "In some ways, it still feels like yesterday that we were on our last crocodile research trip together as a family," she added. "I know in my heart that his love and enthusiasm will live on and that brings me great comfort." With the same fighting spirit as her dad, Bindi has big dreams to change the world with kindness. "We work hard to ensure Dad’s mission continues to grow, just like he wanted us to do," she said.

Bindi Irwin stars on HELLO!'s World Earth Day cover© Kate Berry
Bindi Irwin stars on HELLO!'s World Earth Day cover

Bindi's famous father was actually the inspiration behind the name she chose for her daughter, her "graceful warrior". She explains: "The name Grace Warrior suits our daughter perfectly and feels like the perfect way to honour the greatest Wildlife Warrior to have ever lived."

Since Grace's birth in 2021, the zookeeper has watched her husband Chandler Powell become an incredible father to their daughter. "It fills my heart with joy," she said. Three years ago, the couple were married during an intimate ceremony at the zoo - with several of the animals taking starring roles. Now, the Australian has set her heart on renewing their vows.

Here Bindi speaks her mind about taking on her dad's mission, changing the world and raising her family at Australia Zoo

Steve Irwin rests his head on an elephant at Australia Zoo© Getty
Steve Irwin has left behind an incredible legacy

Why do you describe yourself as a Wildlife Warrior and is this the sweet reason you gave your daughter Grace the middle name Warrior?

My dad first came up with the term 'Wildlife Warrior' many years ago. He wrote it in big letters and stuck it up on his desk. It perfectly describes our family, our mission and who we are at the very core. Being a Wildlife Warrior means standing up and speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The name Grace Warrior suits our daughter perfectly and feels like the perfect way to honour the greatest Wildlife Warrior to have ever lived, my dad.

Bindi Irwin

Before our beautiful daughter was born we couldn't decide on a name for her. We actually talked about 'Daisy' for a long time in honour of our darling alligator at Australia Zoo. However, when Grace was born my first words as I held her in my arms were that she's our 'graceful warrior'. Chandler and I immediately knew that should be her name. The name Grace Warrior suits our daughter perfectly and feels like the perfect way to honour the greatest Wildlife Warrior to have ever lived, my dad.

Bindi Irwin cradles her daughter Grace as she joins husband Chandler© Kate Berry
Bindi looks lovingly at her daughter Grace

What has been your experience of being a mum and bringing up Grace around the wildlife at Australia Zoo?

My hope is that Grace has empathy for all species, and a genuine appreciation for our Earth. I have watched her develop a gentleness towards animals. It makes my heart happy seeing her admire an ant, gently pat a koala or try to feed a tiny tortoise with her spoon. She’s such a strong girl with a real softness towards the natural world.

How have you been sharing your love of wildlife with her?

Grace already loves animals so much that it's easy to share the wonder of animals together. I'm excited knowing that as she gets older we will be able to impart little gems of information about each animal she meets.

What has been the most wonderful thing about seeing your husband become a dad?

Chandler is an extraordinary husband and watching him become a dad fills my heart with joy. He is such a kind-hearted, patient person, which makes him the best dad. Grace adores Chandler and has endless fun running around with him. It's wonderful that we can be together so much of the time since Australia Zoo is a family-run business. Grace comes to zoo meetings with us and we joke that she makes all the big decisions.

Bindi Irwin and her husband Chandler cuddle a koala at Australia Zoo© Kate Berry
The couple are incredibly close and share a love of animals

Do you have plans to expand your family in the future?

Of course, you never know what the future holds. My pregnancy was difficult and we feel very, very lucky to have Grace. We count our blessings every day to have her in our lives. Society places so much pressure on families, and in particular women, when it comes to having children without really knowing their journey. I believe this needs to change as you never know the challenges someone has gone through.

What hopes do you have for your daughter's future and do you hope she will continue your family's legacy with wildlife conservation?

My hope is that our daughter will follow her heart in life and pursue a path that brings her fulfilment and happiness. No matter what she decides to do, I want her to know that I'll always be cheering for her and will be there if she needs a shoulder to lean on.

Bindi Irwin smiles as she poses with a dingo© Kate Berry
She is carrying on her dad Steve's mission with conservation

How do you think your dad Steve would feel now if he could see how you are getting on now with all the wonderful work you have done with helping wildlife?

I hope he would be proud of what we have achieved for conservation. It's hard to believe it's been over 16 years since he passed away. In some ways, it still feels like yesterday that we were on our last crocodile research trip together as a family. I know in my heart that his love and enthusiasm will live on and that brings me great comfort. 

What conservation is Australia Zoo doing now and how will it make a positive difference in the world?

We have an extraordinary team who work to educate and inspire our guests to appreciate the natural world. We have vital endangered species breeding programs, daily educational talks, school experiences, tours, volunteer initiatives, and a passion to bring exciting education to everyone who visits.

Bindi Irwin holds a snake at Australia Zoo© Kate Berry
Australia Zoo have daily educational talks

How are you carrying on your dad Steve Irwin's mission to save wildlife?

We work hard to ensure Dad's mission continues to grow, just like he wanted us to do. He always used to say, "I don't care if people remember me, I want everyone to remember my mission". Through our work both at Australia Zoo and Wildlife Warriors, conservation through exciting education is our ethos.

We support projects around the world protecting wildlife. In Africa we work with three organisations. The Black Mambas, an all female army trained anti poaching team working within the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. Ol Pejeta Conservancy protects the critically endangered black rhinos with specially trained K-9 Units working alongside the rangers. Cheetah Outreach’s Guarding Dog Program, where Anatolian Shepherd dogs are placed with herds of livestock, to deter predators, in particular saving cheetahs from being shot by farmers.

In Sumatra we have two very important projects with tigers and elephants. We help to employ 60 full-time forest rangers who patrol the jungle and dismantle illegal tiger snare traps. Through Australia Zoo we have built an enormous elephant hospital in Sumatra, to treat and care for elephants in need.

My mum grew up in Oregon, USA, so we support a brilliant wildlife organisation, Wildlife Images which has a hospital treating approximately 1,200 wild animals each year.

Bindi Irwin and Chandler look happy as they spend time with the Kangeroos© Kate Berry
Australia Zoo have many projects to support conservation

Here in Australia we have many projects. We support whale shark research alongside Ecocean, learning about this enormous and secretive species. We fund the largest crocodile research program in the world alongside The University of Queensland, using state-of-the-art acoustic and satellite trackers. Our Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and Rescue Unit has treated over 120,000 patients and continues to expand utilising cutting edge medical treatments for the wildlife that comes into our care. We also have three conservation properties within Australia which adds up to about half a million acres of pristine land, set aside for protection of native species.

How many animals have been saved at Australia Zoo Wildlife hospital and what positive impact has this had?

We've treated over 120,000 animals. Our philosophy is 'save one, save the species'. The goal with every animal brought into care is to give them the best chance at life in the wild once again. It's humbling to know that with so many animals treated, we are helping to save entire species.

Bindi Irwin smiles at the Echidna at Australia Zoo© Kate Berry
Bindi says we should treat every day like it's World Earth Day

Why should everyone celebrate World Earth Day and how will you celebrate it at Australia Zoo?

Personally, I believe we should treat every day like it's World Earth Day. We only have this one beautiful, green planet and our very survival depends on us caring for it. World Earth Day is a fantastic reminder to stop and appreciate our wonderful world while giving us all that push to think about our own impact. At Australia Zoo our entire year feels like World Earth Day. We strive to inspire every one of our guests to love and respect the species we live alongside. Our team of 400 works incredibly hard to impart the conservation message in an exciting way so people walk away with a sense of purpose and passion to protect the natural world. Our hearts beat for conservation every minute of every day.

What are you most proud of with your work at Australia Zoo and why?

It can be very easy to get overwhelmed when you look at everything stacked against our world's wildlife and wild places. Deforestation, the illegal wildlife trade, resource depletion, climate change, sometimes it feels easy to fall apart under the weight of it all. I'm most proud to be continuing to try to share the message of conservation in a positive way. If we can all do something, the world will be a brighter place for the generations to come.

How do you keep a special bond and close connection with the animals?

We feel lucky to have such a large family of animals. Australia Zoo is like a resort for wildlife and we strive to create remarkable habitats for our animal family. I think the most important aspect of working with wildlife is always keeping the awe in your heart for every species. If you've spent five minutes or five years with an animal, it's vital to never lose that genuine love, respect and appreciation for them. It is such a privilege to work with wildlife, especially as closely as we all do at Australia Zoo. They're part of our family and it's an honour to share them with our guests to instil a greater understanding for all species.

Bindi Irwin and Chandler pose for wedding photos at Australia Zoo© Kate Berry
Bindi Irwin and Chandler got married at Australia Zoo

What would you like to achieve next in your personal life and at Australia Zoo?

Chandler and I got married in the midst of the 2020 lockdowns due to the pandemic. We weren't able to have family and friends join us for the wedding. Personally, I'd love to renew our vows one day when Grace is older. It would be lovely to have our closest friends and family with us to celebrate.

At Australia Zoo, I'm excited for The Crocodile Hunter Lodge to continue to expand with even more accommodation options. Dad's big dream for the future was to create conservation luxury accommodation like no other for our guests. We opened the lodge and Warrior Restaurant last year which felt like such a win. With his dream accomplished, I’m excited for the addition of more cabin options including three-bedroom cabins.

I would also love for Australia Zoo to be home to an outstanding platypus sanctuary. Platypus are some of my very favourite animals and they’re having a hard time in the wild due to human impact.

Have the numbers returned for visiting at the zoo after the Covid pandemic? How can everyone help support zoos and why is this help vital for wildlife and the planet?

We are tremendously thankful to be reopened after being shut down for over 70 days during lockdown. It was such a terrifying time not knowing if our doors would ever be opened again. Our cost just to feed our animals is over $80,000 a week, so with no guests, we were worried what would happen. We're thankful that we are able to welcome guests from around the world once again.

Bindi Irwin and Chandler cuddle a koala on their wedding day© Kate Berry
The animals at Australia Zoo played a special part in their wedding day

Australia Zoo is a conservation hub, I think it is important to remember to support facilities that are genuinely working hard to do good for our planet and the animals that they care for. Using your funds to visit places that are doing their part to protect the planet, is one way you can help make a difference in the world.

Your wedding photos looked incredible - what was it like tying the knot at Australia Zoo in2020, with many of the animals you love being able to be a part of your special day in someway?

Our animals are part of our family. Even though we couldn't have all the human guests we wanted a tour wedding, we were grateful to spend the day with the wildlife we love so dearly. Getting married during the pandemic was certainly a strange experience, but an important reminder that love always wins. And now, we have our gorgeous daughter which makes persevering with our wedding even sweeter.

Bindi Irwin looks adoringly at Chandler, who is carrying a koala, on their wedding day© Kate Berry
Bindi hopes the couple will renew their vows

What was special for you to choose a wedding dress inspired by your mother’s own bridal dress?

Ever since I was a little girl I've known that I wanted a wedding dress similar to my mum's gorgeous gown. Her dress has been in the family for almost 60 years. It was really meaningful to work with a family-run, 100% Australian wedding dress boutique, Paddington Weddings. They were so kind to create a dress even more perfect than I had imagined.

How did you pay tribute to your dad on your wedding day?

On the day we had a candle-lighting ceremony in honour of Dad, alongside my favourite photo of him and our family dog, Sui. It meant the world to pay tribute to his memory on our special day. I’d also like to mention my incredible brother who walked me down the aisle. I'm forever thankful for his friendship and support.

Bindi Irwin and Chandler light a candle on their wedding day for Steve Irwin© Kate Berry
Bindi and Chandler's special nod to Steve on their wedding day

What easy changes can people make to be more environmentally friendly?

Simple things like swapping out your laundry detergent/dish soap for greener alternatives, turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, composting, recycling, donating used items, planting a garden, shopping local, setting up bird feeders or bee boxes and seeking out companies with environmentally driven products. The options are endless and every little action adds up to make a big difference.

How can people be kinder to the planet?

There are many ways to show kindness towards our Mother Earth. We all lead such different lives, it's important to find what works best for you and your lifestyle. If everyone does the best they can do to reduce their footprint, the world will be a much brighter place for the generations to come. One of the biggest conservation stands you can take is to never purchase any wildlife products. When the buying stops, the killing can, too. Check your pet food for wildlife products like kangaroo meat, avoid fashion brands that promote skins or fur and make informed food choices when at the grocery store.

Bindi Irwin cuddles her husband Chandler as they pose for wedding photos© Kate Berry
The Australian chose a dress very similar to her mum's bridal gown

Volunteering your time to an environmental organisation is an enormous help and donating funds is incredibly beneficial. We run the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and our non profit conservation organisation, Wildlife Warriors, and I can tell you first-hand that donations of time and funds are tremendously appreciated. 

There are also many small acts of kindness you can show in everyday life to protect the planet. Saying 'yes' to reusable items like water bottles and 'no' to single-use plastics. Planting native flowers or trees, organising local clean-up days at the park or beach, swapping that archaic hunting trip for a meaningful photography adventure, educating and inspiring others to care for our Earth.

Photography: Kate Berry

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