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Terri Irwin's fury: 'We're not leaving'

Monday, March 24, 2008

She may not be selling Australia Zoo, but Steve's widow has confirmed dramatic plans that will change it for ever.

Embattled Terri Irwin has lashed out at claims she's tarnishing the legacy of her late husband Steve Irwin with her plans to overhaul Australia Zoo — and she has denied reports she is moving their children to the US.

Last week newspapers reported that Terri was in negotiations to sell the wildlife park to US cable TV network Animal Planet. While those claims have been rejected, Terri has confirmed rumours she is planning to turn the zoo into an extravagant Disney-style tourist attraction.

"We want it to be 'Destination Australia' — kind of like a Disney feel, where a lot of Australians go and see Disneyland and then ask, 'What else is there to do?'" she announced at a VIP breakfast late last week.

Zoo insiders have reportedly alleged that the plans have sparked a bitter rift between Terri and Steve's father Bob, who resigned from the wildlife park earlier this month.

Steve's dream
Adding fuel to the controversy, Bob said in a statement that he had stepped down from the zoo in order to "keep his son's dream alive".

"Steve's ultimate passion, even from a young boy, was always for the conservation of Australian wildlife and its habitat. When Judy [Bob's wife] and I move into our new property we intend to carry on with wildlife rehabilitation and conservation projects. You can rest assured that Judy and I will continue with Steve's dream, with the passion and commitment he would expect."

A distraught Terri has hit out at the claims, insisting that there are no plans to sell off the zoo, or relocate permanently to the US.

"Australia Zoo has not been sold to Animal Planet, and Terri Irwin is not moving to America," a spokesperson for the zoo says. "Terri Irwin loves calling Australia home, and is a great tourism ambassador for Australia."

American-born Terri last week told A Current Affair of her deep affection for her husband's native country, and that she hopes Bindi will eventually take over the running of the zoo.

"We'll never leave. We love Australia. We gotta get some red dirt up our nose and go bush every now and then," she said. "I think Bindi will be the brains and she'll be running the zoo and she'll just tell Robert what to jump on and they'll be a great team."

For the full story, see this week's Woman's Day (on sale March 24).

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Read more about Terri Irwin.

In pictures: Remembering Steve.

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