While most two-week-old infants spend their day sleeping and eating, Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late wildlife expert and TV personality Steve Irwin (AKA The Crocodile Hunter), was already training to follow in her father’s footsteps.
“Ever since I was born I loved animals,” Irwin told me during a phone interview. “I wrangled my first snake when I was only two weeks old here in Texas. It was a Trans Pecos rat snake. Dad would hold these snakes and I would put my little shaky arm out to touch them. Dad and I always had that great connection.”
Her aspirations to do the same type of work her father did until his untimely death in 2006 has led 11-year-old Irwin into the entertainment industry as well. Best known for her nature documentary series “Bindi the Jungle Girl,” which aired on the Discovery Kids channel for two seasons, Irwin said she always wanted to make a movie like her father.
Irwin’s first film, “Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove,” which is the fourth installment of the “Free Willy” series, was released on DVD and Blu-Ray last week. In the film Irwin plays Kirra Cooper, the granddaughter of an amusement park owner in South Africa who attempts to save a baby orca whale she finds trapped inside the park’s lagoon.
During our interview, Irwin talked about her favorite animals and what advice she learned from her father that she will use for the rest of her life.
What was your first real movie experience like?
Making this movie was so much fun especially because this was my first one. I’ve seen all the other “Free Willy” films and I absolutely loved them all. There is always a great action-packed storyline, but you also learn something while you watch it.
Did you get to work with real orca whales? Most of the ones in the movie look like they were CGI.
We couldn’t get a baby orca to do some of the scenes that Willy did like eat an ice cream, so we had to use some movie magic. We did get to work with penguins, some feisty little lion cubs, giraffes and pelicans.
You’ve worked with a lot of animals over the years. What would you say are a few of your favorites?
I love all animals. My favorite animals would have to be crocodiles and snakes. But my all-time favorite animal would have to be an echidna. Echidnas are like porcupines but instead of shedding their quills, they keep them in. When a predator comes up to an echidnas is they’ll curl up into a little ball and stick all those spikes up and the predator can’t eat them. They have these really long tongues and nose they use to eat things like ants and termites. They are very unique animals. They are one of the only two egg-laying mammals in the entire world. The other is the platypus.
What would you consider some of the most important issues facing nature today that you want people to know about?
Conservation. When people think about conservation, they think about saving little woodland creatures, but ultimately it’s about us. I really believe that when you get to touch an animal it ultimately touches you. That’s why I am so glad I’ve been able to do this movie and other documentaries and bring these gorgeous animals to people all over the world.
What about whaling? I’ve read you are very active in trying to stop this from happening around the world.
Yes, it’s incredibly sad. We need to stop this horrible thing that is happening right now as we speak. Japanese are killing these beautiful whales like the Blue Whales. We really need to think about changing. We need to start thinking about how we can protect out wildlife. Also, we need to stop eating wildlife. We might not be able to get the world to stop eating meat, but we can get the world to stop eating wildlife like kangaroos and crocodiles and deer. We have animals like cows and chickens, so you don’t have to eat our beautiful wildlife.
Do you feel like you are following in your dad’s footsteps?
I really do want to carry on in my dad’s footsteps. I’ve always watched my dad. He taught me to respect animals and treat them the same way you would like to be treated. That’s something I will never forget.