The Irwins Detail ‘Incredibly Stressful’ Time Running Australia Zoo Amid the Pandemic Crisis

Life in quarantine is challenging for everyone — but especially when you run a zoo. Animal activists TerriRobert and Bindi Irwin along with Chandler Powell opened up exclusively to Us Weekly’s Marc Lupo about documenting their efforts to protect and maintain the Australia Zoo amid the coronavirus pandemic in their new special, Crikey! It’s the Irwin’s: Life in Lockdown
Of the Animal Planet special, which will offer viewers an intimate look into the family’s life while navigating the temporary COVID influenced shutdown of their Australia Zoo, Bindi, 21, told Us: “This has been an overwhelming time for all of us. We are experiencing such a profound moment in history. Sometimes it’s challenging to remain positive during these hard times, but I keep reminding myself to try to find hope on the horizon.” 
She continued: “We’ve dedicated our lives to conservation. Everything that we do at Australia Zoo is to inspire others to respect our planet and create positive change for the generations to come. I’m incredibly thankful that we’re open once again so that we can get back to our mission of protecting wildlife and wild places.” 
Terri, 55, echoed her daughter’s sentiments, sharing that quarantine has given her an opportunity for reflection. The star, who seemed comfortable sharing a more vulnerable side throughout the special agreed COVID has significantly altered the course of her life. “Our lives are going to change, perhaps forever. Now more than ever we need to protect our wildlife and wild places. This is incredibly important if we want to ultimately protect humankind.”

Now, with the Australia Zoo given the green light to reopen under strict distancing guidances, the family is determined to carry on the legacy of the late Steve Irwin. Below, the Irwin’s talk more with Us about Crikey! It’s the Irwin’s: Life in Lockdown, Bindi and Chandler’s decision to wed amid the pandemic crisis and their family’s unbreakable bond. 

Bindi Irwin Talks Quarantine Wedding Animal Planet Special
Chandler Powell, Bindi Irwin, Terri Irwin, and Robert Irwin Courtesy of Russell Shakespeare

Bindi, Robert and Chandler stepped up to help you take care of the zoo. What makes you most proud of them at the moment?

Terri Irwin: I think I am most proud of the way Robert, Bindi, and Chandler all worked to help out at the zoo, and also to help me. Sometimes after a sleepless night of worrying, their love and encouragement really made everything better, and gave me the strength to carry on.

How has your bond with your family changed during the pandemic?

Robert Irwin: During this crisis and while we, sadly, had to temporarily close the doors to our home, Australia Zoo, we all had to find our feet and cope with the challenges that were brought during this unprecedented time. Above anything, I think the one thing that I was most impressed and inspired by was the leadership shown by my mum and sister. Our mum has been the one to carry the zoo through the toughest times and keep Dad’s mission going as well as raise us kids as well. To see her and Bindi so effortlessly lead the entire zoo team and keep everything running, while not knowing what the next day would bring, was truly amazing. I have the best family, we will always be a team even in the toughest times.

Why did you decide to move forward with your wedding during the pandemic? Did you consider postponing it?

Chandler Powell: After being together for almost seven years, we were both ready to be married. Postponing the wedding was something neither of us wanted, in fact we moved the wedding day earlier! Mine and Bindi’s family played a huge part in encouraging us to get married. They all supported us and helped us to feel comfortable with our decision to get married.

You were overcome with emotion when Chandler surprised you with a picnic on what was supposed to be your honeymoon. What are you most grateful for when it comes to Chandler?

Bindi Irwin: Our honeymoon certainly wasn’t what we had originally planned. It was an incredibly stressful time as Australia Zoo was flung into lockdown and we had no idea if or when our doors would be open again. It was heartbreaking and scary for all of us. We spent our honeymoon doing our best to care for our animals and zoo team hoping that things would get brighter. When Chandler surprised me with a picnic in the place we were supposed to get married (before a media helicopter flew in, scaring our animals and forcing us to move) I was overcome with emotion. Chandler is always my constant in life. No matter what is going on in the world he reminds me to find the sunshine in every day. He’s incredible and I feel very blessed to call him my husband.

Bindi Irwin Talks Quarantine Wedding Animal Planet Special
Chandler Powell and Bindi Irwin Courtesy of Russell Shakespeare

How would you describe your first few months of marriage?

BI: Our first few months of marriage have been a whirlwind to say the least. I’m really glad that we were able to get married when we did. It feels so much better to tackle the world together as husband and wife.

You were a fan of Steve Irwin’s work when you were young, and now you’re part of the family and helping to keep Steve’s dreams alive. Does it feel like a full circle moment?

CP: Steve was one of my biggest inspirations growing up. Watching his documentaries encouraged me to love and appreciate all wildlife, big, small, scaly, and fluffy. When I visited Australia for the first time, of course Australia Zoo was at the top of my list of places to visit and that’s when Bindi and I met. It feels as if Steve brought us together and it’s an honor to carry on his mission.

What do you want people to know about the Australia Zoo at the moment?

TI: Now that Australia Zoo has reopened, we are more inspired than ever to make positive change in the world. Immediately before the pandemic, Australia suffered the worst bushfire event on earth. Nearly 150 species have been pushed to the brink of extinction because of catastrophic fires. Next, we need to support endangered species breeding programs and habitat restoration. All of us here at Australia Zoo are ready to help. Thankfully, we have the support of Wildlife Warriors around the world. Knowing this is truly inspiring. And we’ll continue to invite everyone to join us at Australia Zoo to hug a koala, feed an echidna, and visit our Wildlife Hospital. When you connect with wildlife, you’ll definitely become compelled to save them. Steve was right when he said that humans want to save the things that they love. So from wombats to kangaroos, come meet our animal family and discover what you love!

Crikey! It’s the Irwin’s: Life in Lockdown airs on Animal Planet on Saturday, July 11, at 9 p.m. ET
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