10/20/2006 AT 10:00 AM EDT
Bindi Irwin's 26-part wildlife documentary
series for the Discovery Kids network, Bindi, The Jungle Girl,
slated to debut in January 2007, has been put on hold for a year.
John Stainton, the Irwin family's manager, tells Reuters that production of the program has been halted so he can finish a year-long holiday following the Sept. 4 death of his friend – and Bindi's father – "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who was killed by a stingray barb while filming.
The delay, Stainton insists, is not in reaction to some criticism – including that from conservative Australian Upper House Senator Bill Heffernan – that Bindi Irwin, 8, was being exploited by ratings-hungry TV producers.
"I can't understand what all the fuss is about," a "fed up" Stainton told Australian reporters, according to Reuters. "As far as I know, only one person has said this. That's not public opinion."
An editorial appearing in the Oct. 20 edition of the Melbourne Herald-Sun
newspaper notes that Bindi is the sole star in the latest TV commercial for the Irwins' Australia Zoo, and that the ad barely acknowledges her late father, who established the compound.
On Monday of this week, Bindi appeared on The Australian Story
TV show in her first formal interview since her father's death and said of her upcoming series, which was to feature scenes of her and Steve together: "I'm trying to get across the message that don't be afraid of animals, they're just put on this earth to help the environment and everything like that."
Discovery Channel Publicist Annie Howell said that Bindi and her American-born mother, Terri, had hoped to push ahead with the series and had not been pressured into resuming production by the network.
"It was something that they were really enthusiastic about," Howell told Reuters.