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Family Feud: Steve Irwin’s Dad Criticizes Grandaughter Bindi For Teaming Up With SeaWorld — ‘I Do Not Support The Use Of Captive Animals For The Performance Of Tricks'

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Mar. 10 2014, Published 2:29 p.m. ET

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The daughter of the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has come in from criticism in the wake of her decision to partner with SeaWorld on a project meant to encourage children to learn about animals.

Now, that disapproval is a little closer to home.

Speaking for the first time about the announcement, Irwin’s father Bob, a prominent Australian conservationist, said he could not support an organization that "keeps animals in captivity that does not consider and provide for that animal’s physical, mental and emotional needs” and exploits them for the "performance of tricks with the intent of mere entertainment for financial gain."

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SeaWorld, which operates parks in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego, has become a target for animal advocates since the 2013 film Blackfish raised questions about the park's treatment of animals.

The film accused the park of breaking up orca families in the wild during collections of animals, teaching the cetaceans to do "unnatural" tricks and failing to react enough to warning signs shown by Tilikum, the whale that killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

Writing on his website, Bob said:

There’s been a great deal of attention about a recent partnership between my granddaughter, Bindi Irwin, and SeaWorld (Orlando), announced in the media yesterday.

Neither the Bob Irwin Wildlife & Conservation Foundation Inc. nor I had any knowledge of this partnership prior to the media announcement.

I parted ways with Australia Zoo in 2008 and have had no involvement in its management, direction or partnerships since then.  I am not privy to the decisions that are made regarding Australia Zoo or Terri, Bindi or young Robert Irwin.

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While I have not visited any of the SeaWorld USA locations, and have no intention of doing so, I am aware of the controversy regarding the treatment of killer whales that has come to light with the release of the ‘Blackfish’ documentary.

My mission in establishing a zoo was for the specific purpose of education and engagement of the public in conservation.

Steve and I were 100% dedicated to ensuring that any animals kept in the Australia Zoo collection were kept in the most natural environment possible, given copious environmental enrichment and kept under extremely high animal welfare standards. Our facility, which started as a small reptile park, was built on these principals alone.

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My personal stance is that any organisation that keeps animals in captivity that does not consider and provide for that animal’s physical, mental and emotional needs should not be keeping that animal and other solutions should be sought out.

The Bob Irwin Wildlife & Conservation Foundation Inc. and I do not support the use of captive animals for the performance of tricks with the intent of mere entertainment for financial gain.

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My son fought tirelessly for the welfare of animals and for educating the public about conservation.  Steve had a big heart for wildlife, and where he saw injustice and cruelty, he spoke out.

Steve and I were as one on the issues of animal welfare, community education and engagement in conservation.

I can only hope that this partnership between SeaWorld and my granddaughter, who has followed in Steve’s footsteps, results in the best possible outcomes for the welfare of all animals held in captive facilities around the world.

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Any questions or comments you might have with regard to this partnership between Bindi and SeaWorld should be directed to Terri Irwin.

Bindi, 15, announced last week that she had teamed up with SeaWorld for a new initiative called Generation Nature.

“We are so thrilled to finally be joining SeaWorld on a brand new initiative called Generation Nature, which is all about encouraging kids to get involved and be game changers for wildlife and wild places,” Bindi told Good Morning America host Robin Roberts.

Meanwhile, in California last week, legislation was proposed by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, which would BAN the use of orcas in theme parks.

"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," Bloom said in a press release. "These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement."



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