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The Irwin family feud: How the wildlife warriors have been torn apart

An ugly feud has simmered behind the scenes for years.

The Irwin family and Australia Zoo are Aussie icons. Terri and her children Bindi and Robert, now with Bindi's husband Chandler and daughter Grace, are wildlife warriors just like patriarch Steve was before his death in 2006.

But while the zoo is still a family affair, it's not shared by everyone in the Irwin clan. Terri, Bindi and Robert are extremely involved but over the years they've become distanced from Steve's family — dad Bob, sisters Joy and Mandy, and his nieces.

The Irwins: Terri, Bindi, Robert and Bindi's husband Chandler and their daughter Grace
It seems that the Irwins have the perfect life with Terri, children Bindi and Robert and Bindi's husband Chandler and their daughter Grace running Australia Zoo. Photo: Instagram/@bindisueirwin

The bust-up with Steve's dad

Bob Sr started Australia Zoo, then called Beerwah Reptile Park, in 1970 with wife Lyn. And he and his son Steve were close — as was evidenced in a letter written by the crocodile hunter in 1994.

"At 32, I am finally starting to figure it out. In good times and in bad, you were there. Your strength and endurance to raise me will not go unrewarded. My love for you is my strength!," Steve wrote.

"For the rest of my life, I will reflect on the unbelievably GREAT times we've shared and will continue to share. You're my best friend!"

Steve Irwin with dad Bob Sr and Terri, Bindi, Robert and Bob after Steve's death.
The fallout with Steve's dad Bob Sr came less than two years after the crocodile hunter's death. Photo: Instagram/@robertirwinphotography & Getty Images

But less than two years after Steve's death, Bob had left the park he started.

"It's a strange feeling to spend half your lifetime building something up and walking away from it," Bob Sr told ABC's Australian Story in April 2008.

"I just felt that it was better for everybody concerned if I left Australia Zoo and Judy [Bob's second wife] and I and all our friends were able to continue Steve's work the way I believe it should be done," he said.

In 2021 the feud was reignited when Bindi spoke out about their relationship.

Bindi, Robert and Terri Irwin are estranged from most of Steve's family. Photo: Instagram/@robertirwinphotography
Bindi, Robert and Terri Irwin are estranged from most of Steve's family. Photo: Instagram/@robertirwinphotography

"I really wish that my entire family could spend time with [my daughter] Grace. Unfortunately, my grandfather Bob has shown no interest in spending time with me or my family," she said in a Facebook comment when asked why she didn't call out her grandfather during a Father's Day post in 2021.

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"Publicly he continues to claim that he wants to spend time with us while privately my entire life has been psychological abuse from him," she continued. "He has returned gifts I've sent him after he opened them, he has ignored my correspondence and from the time I was a little girl he has ignored me, preferring to spend time doing anything else rather than being with me."

But Bindi's cousin Toni Johnstone who is the daughter of Steve's sister Mandy quickly came to her grandfather's defence. "I honestly cannot believe how [Bindi] can [accuse Bob of these things] and then preach 'let's be kind to one another' in the same post," she furiously replied. "Let's hope [Bindi and Terri] remember who built the zoo that made them who they are today," she added.

Freezing Steve's sister out

Steve's older sister Joy and her husband Frank were also heavily involved in Australia Zoo, Joy managing the food court and Frank as Managing Director.

Joy and Frank Muscillo seated behind Bindi, Terri and Robert Irwin at the official launch of the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo on November 15, 2008. Photo: Getty Images.
Joy and Frank Muscillo at the official launch of the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo in November 2008. Photo: Getty Images

However, in 2016 that changed with Joy and her children leaving the zoo not long after.

At the time of the family’s departure, they were allegedly bound to a confidentiality agreement and while the contract has now expired, Mrs Muscillo has reportedly made the 'personal decision' to not offer extended commentary on the family’s estrangement.

"I keep away from all that it's just very sad... family stuff," she said in 2021 about the family estrangement.

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