Terri and Robert Irwin closed out day 2 of the Veterinary Meeting & Expo with praises to the veterinary community, more on the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, and even assisted in a marriage proposal.
“So I heard someone here has a tattoo of Steve,” Terri Irwin said as she walked onto the stage during the the Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX) in Orlando, Florida. As the crowd erupted in laughter and the person with the tattoo ran toward the front of the stage to show it off, the Sunday Night Spectacular officially began.
Terri and Robert shared their love for the veterinary profession and all the work that they do daily with the audience. Terri also just how highly she and her late husband, Steve Irwin, thought of the veterinary profession with a personal story involving an incident when Robert, then a toddler, was sick and had to be brought to a hospital.
“We didn't know what was wrong, but [Robert] kept stargazing, like his neck wouldn’t come down. So we went to the doctor and the doctor said, ‘Oh, Crikey,’ because doctors say in Australia, ‘you got to go to an emergency don't go home first, get to the hospital.’ So we get to the hospital and the doctors are trying to figure out what was wrong and [Robert] is not really saying much of anything and they're trying to get an IV in this little chubby arm. So the doctor tries to place an IV and Steve's in there, and Steve's getting anxious, and they finally called the head of pediatrics,” Terri explained.
“He came in and he got the IV in okay, and Steve turned to him and said ‘Mate, that was such a good job, you can be a vet,’” she laughed.
Terri, who was an emergency veterinary technician in Eugene, Oregon before marrying Steve and moving to Australia, shared that her love of animals was developed at a young age. Her father would bring in wildlife and rehabilitate them before releasing them back into the wild. She explained that this fostered her love and passion for wildlife rehabilitation at a young age because she learned that it is important for the animals to be healthy and happy in the wild rather than healthy inside of their home.
Steve and Terri would go on to open the 24-hour Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital to help rehabilitate and rescue injured wild animals before setting them back into the wild if their injuries and circumstances allow it. According to Teri, since the zoo opened it doors, they have treated over 130,000 individual animals, 11,000 koalas, and thousands of sea turtles. The hospital has employed over 40 veterinary nurses and technicians and 8 full-time veterinarians.
“Our hospital, it's a place where we treat so many different injuries, most of what we see ends up being [caused by] cars, and roads, that is what we see all too often. But it can come in the form of so many different injuries and diseases that animals will come in with and all too often. That is human cause and human-related,” explained Robert.
“We are here to just lend a helping hand to the individual, give them a little bit of support, and give back to the species because every single animal that you get back into the wild or back into the household, it means so much to that animal's family or, in a wild situation, to our environment. Every koala that we put back for an endangered species that is the future,” he continued.
The Irwins also shared with attendees that the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital was able to successfully breed the first Irwin’s Turtle in captivity, which was discovered and later named after Steve Irwin. To Robert, this is the honor of a lifetime to be able to stand up for these animals, assist with their treatments, and then have them go back into the wild.
To end the show, Terri and Robert brought animals to the show for the audience to learn more about some exotic animals here with help from the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. The duo presented multiple animals such as snakes, bearded dragons, and some that also call Australia home.
As they finished showing the animals, they welcomed Karen Shenoy, DVM, chief veterinary officer of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, to the stage for some questions. Shenoy used this time to ask the Irwins if they had any advice for the veterinary community members in the room. Robert gave his mother the floor, stating that she has always been giving him advice so she should take the lead on this one.
“Every time I have a win, I lament the things that are left to do. [Bindi Irwin] says ‘Revel, just revel when you have a win. So my big problem was old guys. It's a problem. Old guys would come into the clinic, and he was always a widower, and his dog was the only companion he had. The dog would always have to be put to sleep, and you would always cry. That was my problem. I couldn't handle the crying old guys,” she told the crowd.
“It would make me so devastated. But I'm telling you when you're there for someone in their best time or their hardest time, it is equally important and triumphant. So give yourself a pat on the back when you've had the toughest day we've ever had and then revel in the good part revel in the thing the fixed,” she concluded.
Shenoy informed the crowd that there was time for one more question and they were welcoming someone from the audience to the stage to ask. At this time, Geraldo Vasquez and Pamela Mulkay, were welcomed to the stage, where Vasquez closed the show by getting down on one knee and asking Mulkay to marry him. She said 'yes.'
Sunday Night Spectacular with Terri and Robert Irwin. Presented at: VMX; Orlando, FL. January 13, 2024.