Chip Off the Old Croc
06/18/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT
She'll ride an elephant, snuggle a python, even go Rollerblading with her pet rat. And if there's any doubt as to her parentage, look at her face as she exclaims in her Aussie accent, "It's amaaaaazing!" With her new Discovery Kids series Bindi: The Jungle Girl, 8-year-old Bindi Irwin is clearly following in the bootprints of her father, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. "I love it!" says Bindi of the show. "Animals are my friends, and this means I get to be with all my friends."
It's been eight months since Steve Irwin's deadly encounter with a stingray while shooting footage for his daughter's series. Now Bindi, her mom, Terri, 42, and her little brother Robert, 3, are moving on—but honoring Steve's memory all at once. Bindi's show premieres on June 9; on June 8, Bindi also appears on an Animal Planet special honoring Steve, My Daddy the Croc Hunter. After his death, Terri vowed to keep the family strong while carrying on Steve's mission to educate people about endangered wildlife. "I'm very proud of how we've stuck together," says Terri from the Jungle Girl set near the family's home in Queensland, Australia. "We've kept life going as normal as we could." It hasn't been easy. "People think that with time you start healing," she says. "But with time I miss Steve even more." So she chose to "refocus on the kids"—including moving forward with Bindi's TV projects. "Steve would have agreed."
Though Terri marvels at how her daughter has "blossomed" making the show, she's quick to point out that the homeschooled Bindi is in most ways an average 8-year-old: "She doesn't love every vegetable on her plate, and I have to make her brush her teeth every morning." When not filming, Bindi—who lives with her mom and brother at the family's Australian Zoo—practices martial arts and enjoys surfing. "I like the feeling of getting out there on a big wave and riding it in," she says.
Lately, though, Bindi spends more time in an on-set jungle tree house while interacting with everything from wombats to Madagascar hissing cockroaches ("Love 'em!" she says). In each Jungle Girl episode, Bindi also sings and dances to animal-themed songs with her backup crew the Crocmen—a bit of showbiz pizzazz even her extroverted dad never tried. "It's been fun and exciting for her," says Terri of the show. "Bindi's had so many different animals on the set, and between takes she's swinging and climbing ropes in the tree house. While Robert isn't involved in the filming, he likes to be there too." Most importantly, working on the series also means Bindi can keep close to the memory of her dad. "He inspires me," she says. "I keep him with me the whole time."