Bindi Irwin: I Never Want My Dad's Message of Conservation to Die
05/30/2012 AT 03:00 PM EDT
"We'll get up and put on a Daddy DVD, just to remember all of our wonderful adventures with him," says 13-year-old Bindi, who was 8 when her wildlife conservationist father was killed by a stingray in 2006. "We'll often put in a documentary and watch him and have a smile on our face – it's a great way to start the day."
Smiles abound at the Australia Zoo, where Bindi and 8-year-old Robert live, along with 1,200 animals. It's the same place where her father discovered his passion for animals as a child. This month, they're inviting audiences to meet some of their favorite creatures in the online series Growing Up Wild, debuting on the new Pet Collective YouTube channel.
"The animals here are like family," Bindi tells PEOPLE. "We had the best time just taking the film crew around the zoo and showing off our gorgeous animals."
Episodes featuring crocodiles, rhinos and echidnas give viewers a taste of what zoo life is really like. "It's great to play with the animals – well, not the crocodiles!" she says. "And to know that they were the same animals that dad was brought up with, it's pretty special."
On top of living with tigers and cheetahs, Bindi and Robert keep a few chickens as pets. Their German shepherds, Diamond and Dot, also serve a special purpose at the zoo. "During the day they're puppy dogs, and at night they're watchdogs," she says. "They're great dogs. And while we're away, they help to guard the zoo."
Already an encyclopedia of animal knowledge, Bindi's goal is to continue spreading the word about conservation, like the plight of the Javan rhino, which are being poached to make medicine out of their horns. When you visit the Australia Zoo to meet its white rhinos, it helps fund the zoo's conservation efforts.
"The way we're going, Javan rhinos will be gone by the time I'm an adult," she says. "It would be devastating to lose them. I want the next generation to be able to experience them."
They are words her father would be very proud of. "We never want Dad's message to die," she says. "It's wonderful that we're able to carry on in his footsteps and keep his message alive."
Give Bindi the best 14th birthday present ever, a signature for a petition that aims to protect the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve from being strip-mined. Click here to learn how you can help.
Watch the first episode of Growing Up Wild below!