Into Bindi’s World by Ahmed Imran

Into Bindi’s World by Ahmed Imran

Bindi Irwin, the 8 year-old daughter of Steve Irwin, emerged as a star worldwide after the sad demise of her father. Steve, a devoted family man and Aussie icon ‘The Crocodile Hunter’, died last September while doing something he always loved to do. Very unfortunately he was stabbed by a stingray barb while filming a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef. Whole world has witnessed his memorial service, where little Bindi made a sensational speech bringing tears to everyone. Bindi shared many adventures with her father and experienced more in her young life than most of us ever will in our entire lifetime. She is gradually now proving herself as Steve’s perfect replacement. Having talked with Bindi, and knowing more about her, I had no doubts in my mind that she will be another icon in future. Her love and passion for animals, her bravery and the charming personality are just some of the ingredients that will surely take her to the world of fame.

DSC00001__147__430164588.jpgMy 4 year-old daughter, Zumana, has become a Bindi fanatic. When a guest at our home asked her ‘Who is your best friend?’, She replied ‘Bindi’! I was surprised why she had chosen Bindi from so many others. Even if it’s the influence of TV, then why not Katlene, Nathan, The Wiggles, or other children’s characters?

When we told Zumana that we were going to Queensland (which is Bindi’s home), Zumana was overjoyed. She almost took it for granted that she was going to see Bindi. We had planned to see only Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and some theme parks. Although ‘Australia Zoo’ was a bit far, and in the opposite direction, I was equally interested about Steve Irwin’s world, which has made so much of difference about the wildlife around the world. Steve was an example of a born patriot which was quite evident from his life and activities, which stood him out from many others. To pay a respect to this great soul was always in my mind too.

DSC00001__48__866702520.jpgSteve grew up around crocodiles from his boyhood. He became renowned for removing dangerous crocodiles from the populated areas. After his father died, he took over the park with his American-born naturalist wife Terri. Steve met Terri first while she was visiting the zoo and Steve was performing the regular crocodile show in his typical style. Gradually, through various TV wildlife shows, Steve became an Aussie icon. The Crocodile Hunter now broadcasts in over hundreds of countries. One of my aunts from Canada told me last year that she knows Australia through Steve Irwin. She never missed his program. His enthusiastic style, broad Australian accent and khakis made him a true icon. His catchphrase "Crikey!" became known worldwide. So a trip to his place was a long waited one.

Whenever we had discussed our trip, Zumana always talked about Bindi. Not even beaches and theme parks could take away her attention from Bindi for a moment. When we were packing for Queensland, she insisted on taking a gift for her friend Bindi (the gift was a special drawing she had painstakingly made and carefully looked after). All her enthusiasm, eagerness and expectation made me a bit anxious. I thought it would upset her and doom our holidays if she missed the chance to see Bindi. I was discussing this with a colleague in my university by-the-by, and he said “You never know. If she’s lucky, miracles may happen.” Being inspired, I sent an email to Australia Zoo, explaining Zumana’s passion for Bindi. But the reply confirmed the harsh reality: “We can’t be sure of any exact dates Bindi will be in Australia Zoo or where she will be, due to her busy schedule.”

DSC00001__86__862295778.jpgWe had lots of fun on the Gold Coast. But Bindi had been on top of Zumana’s mind for the entire trip. So we prepared her for possible disappointment by saying that Bindi is busy and might be interstate. We tried utmost to distract her with other amusements, but with little success.

Finally from the Gold Coast, we left for Australia Zoo, which is near the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane. It took about two hours and the clear road signs directed us safely to Beerwah, where Steve Irwin’s father Bob Irwin established the unique animal resort in 1970. Originally, Bob was a plumber in Melbourne but he gave it all up to follow his passions, for reptiles.

DSC00001__64__296216753.jpgIt was a beautiful sunny day. We arrived at about 11 am, when all the grand shows were about to begin. The shuttle train inside the zoo took us to the grand Crocosium (crocodile stadium) where we and about 500 other spectators, enjoyed live snake shows, bird shows, and the croc show. Snakes are usually considered something you hit with a stick, and crocodiles are evil, ugly monsters that kill people. But the zoo and the presenters changed our perception. The zoo’s message was touching. Animals deserve to live their own way, they are not always harmful, and they should be looked after.

Excitement grew when Terri and little Robert (Steve’s son) entered the grounds. But they left soon once the show was over. I was busy helping Zumana feed some animals when my wife got hold of Terri. She told Terri about Zumana’s passion for Bindi and the zoo. I rushed over and thought this was the only chance for Zumana to meet Bindi.

DSC00001__139__912155568.jpgI always carry a flag with me when I travel. I got this habit from the UN peacekeeping experience, where we often exchanged flags and badges with each other. A flag or badge from someone else’s homeland used to be considered there as the best souvenir a friend could get. So, I wanted to give a flag of Bangladesh to Terri, but I was struggling to find it at that very moment, as it was tucked deep inside the baby bag. Finally, I found it and took the chance to introduce Bangladesh to Terri. We told her how our people love and admire the Irwins’ work. I said even my mother is a great fan of Steve, thanks to the Discovery channel and satellite TV. Terri said Bindi might be around the zoo, in some of the dancing areas, and we might be able to meet her as well.

We became hopeful and rushed to one of the information booths, passing Tasmanian devils, different alligators, and Koalas on the way. We asked about Bindi but got the same reply: ‘We’re not told when and where she visits the Zoo, and we have no knowledge unless there is any official program.’

DSC00001__80__652126147.jpgSo, we decided to focus on enjoying the shows, starting with Koalas, then the camels, cheetahs, dingos, wombats, possums, elephants and finally the spectacular tigers (Royal Bengal, I’d say). The majestic tigers impressed everyone, but we felt a little disappointe

d that the tigers’ origin (Bangladesh) was not mentioned well in the display. We talked to one of the presenters about Sunderban and found they were aware of it. The tiger show included feeding the tigers. The show ended with an appeal for a $5 donation dedicated to improve the life of tigers around the world. We were told that each 5 dollar contribution can save a tiger from extinction. Also saw the Giant Galapagos Tortoise weighs as much 300 kilograms. It was a magnificent sight. We saw some native birds, like emus, ostriches, and cassowaries, echidnas and foxes too. We touched a few reptiles and took lots of photos with them in their friendly habitats.

Finally we had a relaxing evening with gorgeous red and grey Kangaroos as they were roaming around the open-range enclosure. We saw a lot of kangaroos before but this was the first time we touched them and fed them. Even my six month-old daughter had fun playing with them. All these events took away Bindi from Zumana’s mind for the time being.

DSC00001__32__855070630.jpgIt was getting near closing time. Many visitors had left to see some other attractions, like Australian Glass Houses. When we were about to leave, we saw a girl and her trainer in the distance. Archi (My friend’s daughter) and Zumana ran over for a closer look. As we got close, we realized it was Bindi, jumping with a skip-rope! I thanked God and had a relief!

Reaching Bindi, Zumana almost lost her words in excitement. I introduced Zumana to Bindi and did all the talking. I explained where we came from, about Bangladesh, and her fans there. I also asked Bindi about her school, what she likes, and so on. Then, when they were posing for photos, I put my cap (with the Bangladeshi flag) on Bindi‘s head! (Because, we no longer had the big flag. We had already placed it with many other flags that other visitors from around the world had left as a tribute to Steve; where we wrote “Love from Bangladesh”.)

Bindi didn’t object, but her trainer politely explained that Bindi could not be photographed with a logo, for ethical and commercial reasons. Zumana wore the cap instead. Bindi was as affectionate and humble as ‘the girl next door’ and talked to us very informally.

DS01__41__566282270.jpgI knew about Steve’s enormous success and reputation all over the world, but what I did not know is the extent of his deep patriotism and his great contribution to wildlife. All his income, especially from the US, was reinvested into buying huge amounts of land to regenerate the bush and protect the wildlife, whereas he led a very simple life. Showing mainly Australian native animals in the zoo, and creating a widespread appreciation and value for these, also comes from his deep patriotism. In this increasing materialistic world, at least some people like Steve care about conserving nature and saving and taking care of endangered animals. This zoo is the perfect place to create that awareness among people from around the world.

wzoo4_912666532.jpgWe were touched by the friendly and dedicated crew who were committed to creating a positive experience with the animals. As well as amusing and entertaining people, they are constantly engaged in conservation and setting examples for environmental protection, wildlife rescue, and humanity. Quite successfully they were able to make me think about this issue seriously. So I was asking myself, ‘What can we do as ordinary people?’ I found the answer at the souvenir shop, in one of the quotations by Steve, “You can make a difference in wildlife by simply not purchasing wildlife products”.

We left the zoo with lasting memories and greater respect for Steve and his family for the work they are still doing. Saying many thanks and goodbyes to all, we headed to our car when the thick cloudy sky was announcing some cool showers on the way.

Steve has gone but his passion and love for wildlife and his motherland, along with his beautiful family, will remain as a source of inspiration and lesson for many of us.

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