Bindi and Robert Irwin on losing their father, Steve Irwin, and continuing his legacy: ‘It was devastating for us as a family to lose our superhero’

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The world was shocked when Australian wildlife conservationist and TV personality Steve Irwin was killed in a freak accident by a stingray in 2006, when he was just 44 years old.

But for his wife, Terri, and their two children, Bindi and Robert, the loss was incalculable. “It was devastating for us as a family to lose our superhero,” Bindi, who is now 20 years old, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Our mission now is to continue the legacy that Dad had,” adds 15-year-old Robert.

That’s a labor of love for Irwin’s children. Both inherited their parents’ love of animals and are passionate conservationists. “Our dad has this amazing ability of having people connect with nature, connect with animals through the amazing documentary series that he did,” says Robert. “He really was such a big influence in so many people’s lives. For us, he really inspired this love of wildlife and conservation.”

Carrying on their father’s legacy is an honor for the siblings, as well as a way to stay connected to their dad. “We are so blessed to get to carry on in his footsteps,” says Bindi, “and make sure that everything he loved carries on into the future.”

To that end, the family founded the Australia Zoo, a 100-acre wildlife sanctuary, which Robert calls “one of the biggest and best zoos in the world.” “All of our animals are so well taken care of,” he says, “and it’s all about giving people that one-on-one experience, which is what Dad was really passionate about.”

The family also has a new television show on Animal Planet, “Crikey! It’s the Irwins,” which chronicles their home life and running the Australia Zoo. “A big part of the show is actually showing flashbacks to what Dad was doing with animals. You kind of get to see Dad working with the crocodiles, and then I get to do the same things,” Robert says.

For Bindi, it’s apparent how much her brother takes after their father. “Robert is so much like Dad — the way he talks and walks, his mannerisms,” she says. “And when he feeds crocodiles, it’s extraordinary, because he feeds them just like Dad used to do.”

The reminder is likely bittersweet. After coping with such a painful loss, Bindi has some advice for others who are dealing with grief — namely, understanding that grief is an individual process and that there’s no one right way to approach it. “You just have to choose your own path and journey,” she says. “Fill your life with people who love you and will hug you and be there for you genuinely, and love you unconditionally.”

She adds, “The people that you truly love, they never leave. They really don’t. They’ll always be with you and live on in your heart.”

Along with encouraging people to learn about animals and care for the planet, the Irwin kids’ biggest hope is that their dad would be proud of all they’ve done and are doing. “That he’d be there somewhere going, ‘Crikey! They’re doing a good job and I’m so happy.’”

No doubt he would be.

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