Bob Irwin, a wildlife conservationist, has broken his silence amid a long-running family feud with his daughter-in-law Terri and granddaughter Bindi by making a rare public statement.
The founder of the Australia Zoo and the father of the late wildlife activist Steve Irwin has been living a quiet, private life away from the public eye and away from his son’s wife and children for the last 15 years.
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Friends say that Bob Irwin, who is now 83 years old, hasn’t talked to any of his relatives since 2008 when he cut ties with Australia Zoo out of fear that the tourist attraction he started 38 years earlier on the Sunshine Coast was becoming “too commercial.”
The walkout happened just six years after his wife Lyn died in a car accident and less than 18 months after his famous son Steve was killed by a stingray while filming on the Great Barrier Reef.
This week, Bob Irwin broke his silence to ask the Queensland government to close a loophole that lets social media influencers go into crocodile habitats to get online content.
The proposed changes would make it a crime to use a crocodile’s habitat without permission and punish people who bother crocs for social media.
Steve Irwin’s father, Bob Irwin, has asked the Environmental Defenders Office to make changes to the Nature Conservation Act.
He said that the people who made content for social media were putting themselves and the crocodiles in danger by going into their habitats.
The government says idiots like these are not breaking any laws. Well, I say, change the law!
Bob Irwin said in a statement.
The changes have been supported by more than 40 traditional owners, conservationists, scientists, business owners, and community members.
A man in Queensland was fined $12,000 a month ago for illegally catching freshwater crocodiles so he could become a social media star.
In February, wildlife officers in far northern Queensland shot and killed a 4.2-meter crocodile that had attacked a man and eaten a dog.
The man was swimming in the Bloomfield River, which is a well-known place where crocodiles live.
After his fight with his daughter-in-law Terri in 2008, Bob Irwin rarely speaks out in public.
The fight between the Irwin family members started 13 years ago when Bob Sr. left Australia Zoo. He was worried that the wildlife park he had started in 1970 was turning into a “circus.”
Reports from the time of Bob Irwin’s departure say that he was worried that the Sunshine Coast tourist attraction was becoming “too commercial” and that 9-year-old Bindi was being pushed into becoming a child star.
When Bob left the zoo for good in 2008, two years after his famous son Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin died, his daughter-in-law Terri was said to be planning a five-year expansion “to make it Australia’s top tourist destination with a Disneyland feel.”
This plan didn’t seem to go over well with Bob. He thought that Australia Zoo should focus on conservation instead of becoming a “circus” and going down a commercial path.
Bob said that he felt like he was no longer welcome at the Australia Zoo as it grew into a major attraction for American tourists.
It’s a strange feeling to spend half your lifetime building something up and walking away from it,
he told ABC’s Australian Story in April 2008.
I was becoming a disrupting influence, not that I meant to be.
When he left the family business in 2008, he didn’t say anything about his son-in-law in his goodbye speech.
He also said he wanted to “continue Steve’s dream” of wildlife conservation at his own reserve in Kingaroy. This made it sound like Terri’s new plans for Australia Zoo weren’t what his son would have wanted.
At the time, Terri denied that Bob’s decision to leave was caused by a disagreement between the two of them.
I just can assure everyone that I love Bob dearly… he’s gone through so much grief losing his [first] wife and his only son that I will respectfully just leave it at that,
Reports also said that Bob, a former plumber who moved to Queensland in the 1970s and became a conservationist, was “upset” about Bindi’s rising popularity in the media after Steve’s death.
Terri has always said that her daughter started a career in the media when she was young because she had a natural talent for performing.
Tensions started up again in 2021 when Bindi posted a touching tribute to her husband, father-in-law, and late father on Father’s Day.
When a fan asked why she didn’t include her grandfather, Bindi gave an uncharacteristically honest account of their relationship, saying that he had ignored her since she was a “little girl.”
I really wish that my entire family could spend time with [my daughter] Grace. Unfortunately, my grandfather Bob has shown no interest in spending time with me or my family,
Amanda French, a family friend, said at the time that it had been “hard” for Mr. Irwin, who is still sad 17 years after his son died.
Steve’s burial place is inside the zoo… That’s hard for him, not to be able to return to his son’s resting place. He hasn’t been back to Australia Zoo since 2008,
She also says Mr. Irwin is always nice to Bindi and his grandson Robert.
He says they’re always welcome if they ever turned up. But I think it would be hard for Bob to ring up Australia Zoo and be like – can we fix this?