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Meeting the Irwins: Life after the 'Crocodile Hunter'

By Anna Coren, CNN
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Talk Asia with the Irwins
  • Anna Coren met TV conservationist Steve Irwin's widow and two children
  • Known as the Crocodile Hunter, Irwin died in September 2006 from a stingray barb while filming
  • The Irwin family live at Australia Zoo and continue Steve's work
  • Bindi has same energy and enthusiasm as her father and grew up in the media spotlight

(CNN) -- I always wanted to meet Steve Irwin. He was the quintessential Aussie who took manliness to a whole new level, wrestled man-eating crocodiles, wrangled poisonous snakes and would pick up any of God's creatures to show the world how remarkable animals really are.

He also popularized the phrase "Crikey!" that has now become part of the Australian vernacular.

When Steve died on September 4, 2006 from a stingray barb while filming on the Great Barrier Reef, the outpouring of grief was not just from within Australia.

His death was felt right around the world. I was living in the U.S. at the time and was overwhelmed by all the coverage dedicated to the passing of Australia's favorite environmentalist.

His wife Terri, an American environmentalist, and their two children Bindi and Robert were forced to grieve publicly.

Bindi grew up on television, starring alongside her father and Robert was following in his sister's footsteps. At the memorial held at Australia Zoo, televised around the country, Terri was unable to speak.

Instead Bindi stood up in front of more than 5,500 people at the "Crocoseum" - the place Steve built to show off his love of crocodiles - and spoke lovingly and eloquently about her father, her hero.

Three years later I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Bindi, Robert and Terri for CNN Talk Asia.

Bindi greeted me with the same enthusiasm and energy her father seemed to possess. At the age of 11, she's a little adult with an amazing grasp of environmental issues. She talked about being the voter of the future and how it's up to us to fix the planet and protect all wildlife.

Robert is now 6-years-old with an adventurous spirit and a mop of sun-bleached hair - a sign the little guy spends a lot of time outdoors. He climbs trees and picks up anything that moves; his favorite animals are lizards and displayed an amazing knowledge of all creatures great and small.

During the sit-down interview with Terri -- a strong woman who reminds me of a lioness with her mane of blonde hair -- she talked about being the luckiest person in the world.

"My love and my passion is doing conservation work, so living here at the zoo in such beautiful grounds and among beautiful animals, and having my children with me all the time is remarkably lucky. So some people go to work. I wake up in the morning and I'm there. It's great," she told me.

Terri talked passionately about the environment. It's a passion she developed at a very early age.

She grew up in Oregon in the United States; her father ran a trucking business and would bring home injured animals. She visited Australia for the first time in 1991 and while on a visit to a small wildlife park on Queensland's Sunshine Coast -- that would later become Australia Zoo -- she met the charismatic Steve Irwin.

She says it was love at first sight. Terri and Steve were engaged 4 months after that first meeting, married after 8... and the rest is history.

Steve always told Terri that if anything ever happened to him, it was her job to continue his work. It's a promise she's vowed to keep.

For half a day Terri, Bindi and Robert showed me around Australia Zoo, their home. It's a place where Steve's legacy is alive and well -- demystifying the world of nature.