Untitled Document

20 Jan 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

HOME
VIEW DIGITAL EDITION
CONTENTS
PROFILES
BUY HANDBOOK
JOBS
NEWS
BLOG
PRODUCTS
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
Sign up for FREE ezine
Current issue
Attractions Management Handbook
Current issue

View this issue online
Buy print edition
Download PDF

Previous issues
Attractions Management Handbook
2015 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2014 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2013 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2012 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2011 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Attractions Management Handbook
2010 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Attractions Management Handbook - Terri Irwin

Movers & Shakers

Terri Irwin


The conservationist, social entrepreneur and zoo operator describes how she’s continuing late husband Steve Irwin’s work

Terri Irwin, owner of Australia Zoo
Terri and her children Robert and Bindi honour Steve’s legacy by continuing his work

When Terri Irwin’s husband Steve died, she suddenly found herself in charge of their business – Australia Zoo. Terri had to adapt quickly to her role as an attractions’ operator, while being a single mum of two and honouring Steve’s legacy. It’s a task most would find overwhelming.

Seven years on, Australia Zoo is thriving and the many conservation projects they set up together to protect wildlife all over the world remain regular beneficiaries of money raised by the Irwin family business.

Located at Beerwah on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, about an hour north of Brisbane, Australia Zoo is set on 100 acres and is home to more than 1,200 animals. It takes 400 staff and over 100 volunteers to maintain it.

One of the zoo’s USPs is that wildlife shows happen throughout the day, including a midday croc feed in the zoo’s Crocoseum. All money raised from the photo opportunities goes into conservation.

How did you and Steve get started in the zoo industry?
We didn’t break even at Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park (their first joint venture, inherited from Steve’s parents), but he saw it as an opportunity to showcase and help all of the wildlife he was so passionate about. The first time I wanted to send out a press release, Steve told me it wasn’t how things were done. But I loved working with Steve – he always challenged me. He was the one with the vision. I would tell him we didn’t have any money but he’d build it anyway.

How difficult was it for you both to break into TV?
They (Discovery Channel) didn’t like what we showed them of Steve with the animals. They told us wildlife programmes needed 80 per cent animals, 20 per cent presenter. In ours, Steve was in every shot.

How have you coped during the global financial crisis?
We’re social entrepreneurs – it’s what we want to do. Our profit margin isn’t high, but we’re joyful every day. I’m lucky to earn a living doing what I love. I’ve never felt like packing it in and have always honoured Steve’s promise (to keep Australia Zoo open). I have good help – people who are better at this than I am. Plus, I’ve done everything in the business; I’ve cleaned cages, I’ve done the marketing, I know where the cabling is. It’s grown organically, so hasn’t been as daunting as if I’d come straight into this huge business. After Steve died, despite my grief and fear, I was always driven to make things better, not just keep them the same.

What are your key priorities?
I run the company with the priority of animals first, staff second and visitors third. If the animals need something, that comes before anything else. If things get tough, we go on the skinny – we don’t can the project. I may not be able to give the tiger unit in Sumatra as much money for their anti-poaching activities, but I still give something and no one at the project loses their job.

How does Steve’s legacy live on at home and at the zoo?
Steve stood for so much. He always said he didn’t mind if he got remembered or not, just that his message did. We still use his pictures; he’s the embodiment of the ethics of the Irwin family and Australia Zoo. No one is ever going to come close to him, so we still use him as a major brand of what we do. We couldn’t ever afford in terms of marketing the exposure he gives us and our projects. Right now, Steve’s in 500 million houses in 42 countries.

How do you respond to visitors’ needs at Australia Zoo?
At Australia Zoo, there’s no red tape and no bureaucracy. That means, if we get feedback from a visitor to say they want bottle warmers in the baby change rooms for heating formula, we can have them in place by the next day.

How do you raise money to fund the zoo and your projects?
At Australia Zoo, we have an Aussie-made shop. It’s not easy to stock it and it’s not that lucrative, but from a social entrepreneurship point of view, it’s helping artists and indigenous communities and, more importantly, it’s building the ethics of who we are and what we stand for. You need to decide whether you’re about making money or changing lives. If you give, you’ll get back.

Do zoos have a responsibility for the future of our animals?
Zoos have a responsibility to be a caretaker, not just a showcase for animals. A zoo can be a life-changing experience if you set it up and package it to the guests properly – if you can feel and smell and connect with an animal, it gets into your heart and touches you and you fall in love with it. If visitors see pacing animals, they won’t come back. If you can’t afford to look after the animals properly in big happy environments, don’t have so many.


ABOUT TERRI IRWIN
Terri Irwin is the owner of Australia Zoo. She is a passionate wildlife spokesperson and conservation icon around the world

Facebook: AustraliaZoo
Twitter: @AustraliaZoo
www.australiazoo.com.au



From Attractions Management Issue 3 2013

Read this, and all of our back issues at:-
www.attractionsmanagement.com/archive


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2014 issue 1

Published by The Leisure Media Company, Portmill House, Portmill Lane, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1DJ. Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | Advertise | © Cybertrek Ltd