Bob vs Bindi Irwin feud: Why Bob really quit Australia Zoo 13 years ago


The Irwin family feud began 13 years ago when Bob Snr quit Australia Zoo because he was concerned the wildlife park he’d founded in 1970 was becoming a ‘circus’.

The story of Bob’s controversial departure from the family business resurfaced this week after he was fiercely criticised by his granddaughter Bindi, 22, who accused the 82-year-old in a Facebook post on Sunday of ‘ignoring’ her since she was child.

Various reports from the time of Bob’s exit from Australia Zoo claim he was worried the Sunshine Coast tourist attraction was becoming ‘too commercial’ – and even feared a then nine-year-old Bindi was being pushed into child stardom.

Dispute: The Irwin family feud began 13 years ago when Bob Snr quit Australia Zoo because he was concerned the wildlife park he’d founded in 1970 was becoming a ‘circus’. Pictured: Terri Irwin with her children, Bindi and Robert, alongside Bob Irwin Snr (right) at a memorial for the late Steve Irwin at Australia Zoo in Queensland on September 20, 2006

When Bob left the zoo for good in 2008 – two years after the death of his famous son, Steve ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin – his daughter in-law Terri was said to be planning a five-year expansion ‘to make it Australia’s peak tourist destination with a Disneyland feel’, reported The Age.

This plan apparently didn’t sit well with Bob, who felt Australia Zoo should focus on conservation instead of following a commercial path and becoming a ‘circus’.

By his own admission, Bob felt he’d become an unwelcome presence at Australia Zoo as the business grew into a major attraction aimed at American tourists.

Rift: The story of Bob's controversial departure from the family business resurfaced this week after he was fiercely criticised by his granddaughter Bindi, 22, who accused the 82-year-old in a Facebook post on Sunday of 'ignoring' her since she was child. Pictured: Terri, Robert Jnr, Bindi and Bob Snr next to a statue of the Irwin family at Australia Zoo on November 15, 2007

Rift: The story of Bob’s controversial departure from the family business resurfaced this week after he was fiercely criticised by his granddaughter Bindi, 22, who accused the 82-year-old in a Facebook post on Sunday of ‘ignoring’ her since she was child. Pictured: Terri, Robert Jnr, Bindi and Bob Snr next to a statue of the Irwin family at Australia Zoo on November 15, 2007

‘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.’

Tellingly, when he resigned from the family business in 2008, he made no reference in his farewell statement to his daughter-in-law. 

He also said he wanted to ‘continue Steve’s dream’ of wildlife conservation at his own reserve in Kingaroy – with the suggestion being Terri’s new vision of Australia Zoo wasn’t what his son would have wanted.

Reports: Reports from the time of Bob's exit from Australia Zoo claim he was worried the Sunshine Coast tourist attraction was becoming 'too commercial' - and even feared a then nine-year-old Bindi was being pushed into child stardom. Pictured: Bob Snr on October 25, 2016

Reports: Various reports from the time of Bob’s exit from Australia Zoo claim he was worried the tourist attraction was becoming ‘too commercial’ – and even feared a then nine-year-old Bindi was being pushed into child stardom. Pictured: Bob Snr on October 25, 2016

At the time, Terri denied rumours a personal rift was behind Bob’s decision to leave.

‘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,’ she said.

Meanwhile, various reports suggested that Bob – a former plumber who became a conservationist after moving to Queensland in the 1970s – was also ‘upset’ with Bindi’s growing media profile in the years after Steve’s death.

Despite these concerns, Terri has always maintained her daughter embarked on a media career as a child willingly because of her natural talent for performing.

By the time Bob severed ties with Australia Zoo in 2008, the little girl had appeared in various TV shows, and released a clothing range and action doll.

No worries: Despite these concerns, Terri has always maintained her daughter embarked on a media career as a child willingly because of her natural talent for performing

No worries: Despite these concerns, Terri has always maintained her daughter embarked on a media career as a child willingly because of her natural talent for performing

It comes after Daily Mail Australia unearthed the financial settlement offered to Bob Snr when he quit Australia Zoo 13 years ago.

In January 2008, he received a $1million package when he departed the zoo – which he had founded as Beerwah Reptile Park in 1970 – plus a $100,000-per-year pension.

An earlier financial arrangement had been reached in 1992 when Bob and his first wife, Lyn, handed over ownership of the zoo to son Steve and daughter-in-law Terri.

Because Steve and Terri were unable to afford the $300,000 required to purchase Australia Zoo, they instead agreed to a retirement package for Bob and Lyn whereby they would pay them a wage for the rest of their lives.

Agreement: In January 2008, Bob received a $1million package when he departed the zoo - which he had founded as Beerwah Reptile Park in 1970 - plus a $100,000-per-year pension. Pictured: Steve, Terri and Bindi Irwin in Los Angeles in July 2002

Agreement: In January 2008, Bob received a $1million package when he departed the zoo – which he had founded as Beerwah Reptile Park in 1970 – plus a $100,000-per-year pension. Pictured: Steve, Terri and Bindi Irwin in Los Angeles in July 2002

Lyn died in the year 2000 in a single-vehicle accident.

An Australia Zoo spokesperson said in 2008: ‘Australia Zoo, under instruction from Terri Irwin, will continue to provide financial assistance to Bob with a retirement package worth over $1million, plus an ongoing annual pension of $99,840 per year.

‘The $1million package includes the purchase of Mr Irwin’s 632-hectare property near Kingaroy, and the construction of a new home, a car each for him and his [second] wife [Judy] plus a bulldozer and other equipment.’

Australia Zoo was opened by Bob and Lyn Irwin in 1970 under the name Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park.

Their son Steve and his American wife, Terri, eventually transformed the wildlife park into the modern Australia Zoo.

Bolstered by Steve’s television fame as ‘The Crocodile Hunter’, the park became an extremely popular tourist destination.

Terri became the sole owner of the zoo in September 2006 after Steve died aged 44 in a freak accident while filming a wildlife documentary in Batt Reef, Queensland.

It comes after the Irwins’ daughter, Bindi, addressed her relationship with her estranged grandfather Bob in a scathing Facebook comment on Sunday, and claimed her family had been supporting Bob financially since 1992.

The mother of one wrote: ‘I really wish that my entire family could spend time with Grace [her baby daughter]. Unfortunately, my grandfather Bob has shown no interest in spending time with me or my family.’

Financial arrangement: An earlier financial arrangement had been reached in 1992 when Bob and his first wife, Lyn, handed over ownership of the zoo to Steve and Terri Irwin. Because Steve and Terri were unable to afford the $300,000 required to purchase Australia Zoo, they instead agreed to a retirement package for Bob and Lyn whereby they would pay them a wage for the rest of their lives. Pictured: Robert Jnr, Terri and Bindi Irwin

Financial arrangement: An earlier financial arrangement had been reached in 1992 when Bob and his first wife, Lyn, handed over ownership of the zoo to Steve and Terri Irwin. Because Steve and Terri were unable to afford the $300,000 required to purchase Australia Zoo, they instead agreed to a retirement package for Bob and Lyn whereby they would pay them a wage for the rest of their lives. Pictured: Robert Jnr, Terri and Bindi Irwin

She went on to claim that Bob had ‘returned gifts I’ve sent after he opened them’, and ignored any letters sent from her.

‘From the time I was a little girl he has ignored me, preferring to spend time doing anything else rather than being with me,’ she continued.

‘He has never said a single kind word to me personally. It breaks my heart.’

She went on to say that her mother Terri still writes to him and sends birthday cards and Christmas gifts, but claims they have received no reply.

‘We have also been his financial support since 1992 when he retired from Australia Zoo, sending him funds every week,’ she added.

‘We built him a house on a beautiful property and will always do our best to ensure his wellbeing.

‘I hope everyone remembers to be kind to one another but most of all care for your own mental health.

‘I have struggled with this relationship my entire life and it brings me enormous pain.’

Feud: It comes after the Irwins' daughter, Bindi, addressed her relationship with her estranged grandfather Bob in a scathing Facebook comment on Sunday, and claimed her family had been supporting Bob financially since 1992. Pictured: Bindi and her husband, Chandler Powell

Feud: It comes after the Irwins’ daughter, Bindi, addressed her relationship with her estranged grandfather Bob in a scathing Facebook comment on Sunday, and claimed her family had been supporting Bob financially since 1992. Pictured: Bindi and her husband, Chandler Powell

Following her harsh post, members of Bob’s inner circle fired back at Bindi.

Bethany Wheeler, another granddaughter of Bob’s by marriage, declared on Facebook: ‘The time has come to speak up.’

Ms Wheeler, whose stepmother Mandy is Bob’s daughter, defended her grandfather’s character, calling him ‘one of the most genuinely beautiful humans on this planet’ who has ‘never spoken out or put down anybody’.

Amanda French, a family friend who co-wrote Bob’s 2016 autobiography The Last Crocodile Hunter, also accused Bindi of assassinating her grandfather’s character.

‘To read the sad comments online today has sickened me, and people who are closest to him,’ Ms French wrote on Facebook.

She described Bob as ‘kind, gentle, generous and extremely f**king introverted’.

Claims: The mother of one wrote: 'I really wish that my entire family could spend time with Grace [her baby daughter]. Unfortunately, my grandfather Bob has shown no interest in spending time with me or my family'

Claims: The mother of one wrote: ‘I really wish that my entire family could spend time with Grace [her baby daughter]. Unfortunately, my grandfather Bob has shown no interest in spending time with me or my family’ 



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