Bindi Irwin: Why My New Movie Role Feels So Personal | Bindi Irwin

from left: Bindi Irwin in 2006 and Bindi Irwin in 2013

John Stanton/WireImage; REX USA

Bindi Irwin: Why My New Movie Role Feels So Personal

Toby Wallace and Bindi Irwin, in Return to Nim's Island

Vince Valitutti

Bindi Irwin: Why My New Movie Role Feels So Personal

Friday March 15, 2013 05:00 PM EDT

Most of the world remembers Bindi Irwin as a young girl accompanying her famous wildlife-loving father, erstwhile Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, on his adventures in the Australian Outback.

Bindi, now 14, has shed the ponytails and khaki outfits she wore when she explored the world with her father. In her upcoming Hallmark Channel Movie, Return to Nim's Island (which premieres March 15 at 8 p.m. ET on the Hallmark Channel), the teenager portrays the lead role of Nim, a wildlife enthusiast who sports cutoff denim shorts and whose long blonde hair flows past her shoulders.

"Acting is something I'm extremely passionate about," Bindi tells PEOPLE. "Nim is the ultimate wildlife warrior so it was great. I could really relate to the role. Nim is such a passionate individual. She stands up for what she believes in and she won't take no for an answer."

"I see my filming career as an opportunity to get the message of conservation out to an even greater audience," she says.

Bindi hasn't forgotten the lessons she learned from her father, who was killed by a stingray while filming the documentary Ocean's Deadliest in 2006.

"Everything I do in my life I do to make my mum and dad proud. I want to carry on in my dad's footsteps and make sure that his legacy lives on forever," Bindi says.

"I want my children and my grandchildren to live in a world with clean air, pure drinking water and an abundance of wildlife so I've chosen to dedicate my life to wildlife conservation so I can make the world just a little bit better."