Steve Irwin’s father Bob allegedly wants to start a legal battle over the Australia Zoo against its current owner Terri Irwin, Steve’s widow. Bob Irwin, 84, has not been quiet about his disdain for how Terri runs the park. He claims she has commercialized it to the point that it has lost its focus on the animals. Bob had started a wildlife park that evolved into the Australia Zoo before retiring in the 1990s and leaving it to the newlywed Steve and Terri. But it seems like he wants to take over the zoo to run it according to his own standards.
The History of the Irwin Family and the Australia Zoo
In 1970, Bob and Lyn Irwin established the Beerwah Reptile Park, which consisted of two acres of native wildlife like kangaroos, crocodiles, magpie geese, lace monitors, and tiger snakes. Their son, Steve, showed a remarkable knack for animals ever since he was a small boy. Young Steve Irwin accompanied his father and mother on trips where they studied snakes and birds and relocated crocodiles.
In the 1980s, the park rebranded into the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. It had expanded into four acres and had two full-time employees. Steve took over the management of the park in 1991. A short time later, he met Terrie Raines while she visited. Terri was no stranger to wildlife care and business management.
She worked in her family construction business from 1979 and began running it in 1984. Two years later, she started a wildlife rehabilitation park called Cougar Country that specialized in caring for predatory animals. Terri had cared for animals all her life since her father would bring home injured wildlife he’d find on highways. However, she developed these skills and began to work as a veterinary technician at an emergency animal hospital in 1989.
Steve and Terri married in 1992 and embarked on a crocodile rescue mission, which kicked off the Crocodile Hunter documentary series. In this decade, Steve’s parents retired and gave the park’s ownership to Steve and Terri, who renamed the expanding wildlife park the Australia Zoo. They had two children together, Bindi and Robert, who share their parents’ love of animals and conservation. In 2004, Lyn Irwin passed away, and Steve dedicated their newly established Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital to her memory.
Then, tragedy struck on September 4, 2006, when Steve died while snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. But his family and the zoo carry on his legacy. Today, the Australia Zoo spans over 700 acres, has over 500 employees, and continues Steve’s mission to educate and conserve. 
The Irwin Family Feud
Unfortunately, the family seemed to split after Steve’s death. Terri, Robert, Bindi, Bindi’s husband Chandler, and daughter Grace are extremely involved in the zoo, but they’ve seemed to have little to do with Steve’s relatives, including his father Bob, sisters Mandy and Joy, and their children.
“It’s a strange feeling to spend half your lifetime building something up and walking away from it,” Steve Irwin’s father said in April 2008. “I just felt that it was better for everybody concerned if I left Australia Zoo and Judy [Bob’s second wife] and I and all our friends were able to continue Steve’s work the way I believe it should be done.”
Joy and her husband Frank used to be very involved in the zoo, as Joy managed the food court and Frank worked as Managing Director. But in 2016, they and their children departed from the park. They have not made any comment on the estrangement, aside from Joy in 2021 remarking that “I keep away from all that, it’s just very sad… family stuff.”
The family feud garnered attention again in 2021. On Facebook, a commenter asked Bindi why she didn’t phone her grandfather, Bob Irwin, on her Father’s Day post. She replied in a comment saying, “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. Publicly he continues to claim that he wants to spend time with us while privately my entire life has been psychological abuse from him. He has returned gifts I’ve sent him after he opened them, he has ignored my correspondence and from the time I was a little girl he has ignored me, preferring to spend time doing anything else rather than being with me.”
But her cousin, Toni Johnson, the daughter of Steve’s sister Mandy, defended her grandfather. “I honestly cannot believe how [Bindi] can [accuse Bob of these things] and then preach ‘let’s be kind to one another’ in the same post,” she replied. “Let’s hope [Bindi and Terri] remember who built the zoo that made them who they are today.” 
Steve Irwin’s Father is “Taking Back the Zoo”
An alleged insider source told New Idea that Bob Irwin feels like the zoo was taken from him after Steve’s death. “Bob’s genuine passion for the environment and all creatures great and small has given him the courage to push Terri to hand back the keys before the place turns into something so far from what he always dreamed it would be,” the source said. “The final straw for Bob was the recent announcement they were opening up the zoo’s grounds for rock concerts, with none other than Terri’s old mate Russell Crowe and his band set to be one of the first of the rowdy gigs! Bob finds it insulting that this conservation haven that he was the brainchild of is now attracting thousands of partygoers – next thing you know they’ll be hosting Schoolies!” 
Russel Crowe had performed a one-off gig with his band, Indoor Garden Party, at the zoo in June. The Oscar-winning actor is a long-time supporter of the Australia Zoo and a friend of the Irwins. 
The source also claimed that Judy is supporting her husband through this endeavor. “Judy has watched Bob suffer, over the years, not seeing his grandkids [Robert and Bindi]. She has also mopped up the tears knowing they will likely never meet Bob’s great-granddaughter Grace. Judy doesn’t want him to leave this world with regrets, so with a firm hand she’s helping him reclaim his beloved zoo.”
Keep Reading: Aussies are Calling For Steve Irwin’s Face On Money Instead of King Charles III.
- “The Irwin Family Story.” Australia Zoo.
- “The Irwin family feud: How the wildlife warriors have been torn apart.” Yahoo. Belinda Wanis. October 7, 2023
- “Bob Irwin’s last stand: “I’m taking back the zoo!” New Idea. May 15, 2023
- “Bindi Irwin thanks Russell Crowe for ‘music that moves your heart and soul’ as he plays one-off gig at Australia Zoo…” Daily Mail. Marta Jary. June 3, 2023