Terri holding Ellie the Wombat
Terri holding Ellie the Wombat

Terri Irwin reveals fight to save Australia Zoo

TERRI Irwin has spoken of the family's fight to save Australia Zoo after the coronavirus lockdown left the iconic Queensland tourism attraction unable to pay their bills.

In a special episode of Crikey! It's the Irwins called Life in Lockdown, which will air on Animal Planet on August 1, Terri offered a rare insight into the financial struggles Australia Zoo was hit with after being forced into temporary closure, which left them with no income and just six weeks' worth of food for their 1200 animals.

Australia Zoo typically spent around $78,914 caring for the wildlife each week, and half of its income on wages, totalling $400,000 a week, meaning they had to cut jobs and operate on skeleton staff to keep up with animal welfare costs during lockdown.

Inside an empty Crocoseum at Australia Zoo, as seen in Crikey! It's The Irwins: Life in Lockdown. Picture: supplied/ Animal Planet
Inside an empty Crocoseum at Australia Zoo, as seen in Crikey! It's The Irwins: Life in Lockdown. Picture: supplied/ Animal Planet

"I can't even come close to paying bills; we are having to stand down staff and it's very emotional," Terri said during the episode.

"I'm the pilot of a big plane and the plane is going down, and I'm handing out all the parachutes I've got."

"Sometimes at the end of the day I've just got my head in my hands wondering what we're going to do tomorrow."

"We all lay awake a bit".

She also spoke of the importance of keeping a promise she made to her late husband, crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, who converted his family's Beerwah wildlife park to Australia Zoo in the 1990s.

"This was Steve's passion. Steve would say to me, 'if anything happens to me, make sure the zoo continues'," she said. "So it's really important that we keep this going."

Terri holding Ellie the Wombat in Crikey! It's The Irwins: Life in Lockdown. Picture: supplied/ Animal Planet
Terri holding Ellie the Wombat in Crikey! It's The Irwins: Life in Lockdown. Picture: supplied/ Animal Planet

After her stripped back wedding to Chandler Powell as lockdown began in March, Bindi Irwin cancelled her honeymoon - a planned road trip around Australia - to join her brother, Robert, in taking on extra responsibilities at the zoo.

Robert also pitched in with the depleted animal rescue team.

"It's really scary trying to make do with a limited number of staff, and to take care of 1,200 animals," Bindi said during the episode.

"We have enough food to continue on for about six weeks, but after that we are going to seriously be running out of funds."

"I keep thinking, 'Gosh I wish dad was here to help us out with everything'."

Bindi and Chandler, Kato the Wombat, had to cancel their planned honeymoon to help out with the animals. Picture: supplied/ Animal Planet
Bindi and Chandler, Kato the Wombat, had to cancel their planned honeymoon to help out with the animals. Picture: supplied/ Animal Planet

During lockdown, Terri implemented measures such as grouping the koalas together to cut down cleaning costs, and creating two separate teams at the Wildlife Hospital so it could continue to operate if anyone was affected by the virus.

The hospital was already under strain after the devastating bushfires across Australia earlier this year.

Terri said the zoo had also "very politely" asked the Federal Government for assistance.

In late April, the Federal Government unveiled a $94.6 million support package for Australia's zoos and aquariums to help them care for their animals.

"That's going to save us," Terri said.

The zoo also received a generous donation of vegetables from local company, Suncoast Fresh.

Crikey! It's the Irwins: Life in Lockdown, which follows the family working to keep the zoo afloat, premieres Saturday, August 1 at 7:30pm. Animal Planet has also greenlit season three of the reality series Crikey! It's the Irwins which will premiere later this year.

Originally published as Terri Irwin reveals fight to save Australia Zoo



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