Bob Irwin will skip granddaughter Bindi Irwin’s sweet 16

Bindi Irwin’s 16th birthday celebrations may not be so sweet, thanks to an old family rift, if reports are to be believed.

Grandfather Bob Irwin confirmed he won’t be attending the event at Australia Zoo next month. Rather, he’ll be more than 2000 kilometres away, working on a crocodile conservation project.

”In actual fact I’ll be in Cape York, so I won’t be there,” Bindi’s grandfather told 9 Stories.

The family had a public falling out in 2008 when the 74-year-old quit his job at Australia Zoo. Staff claimed he was upset about the commercial direction his son’s wife Terri seemed to be taking the zoo.

In 2010, after suffering a heart attack, he told the Daily Telegraph he had not been visited by his grandchildren.

”I haven’t heard from them [Bindi and Robert] and it is sad but that is a part of life, I guess,” Irwin said at the time.

His grandchildren were in Los Angeles for the launch of Free Willy::Escape from Pirate’s Cove, which starred Bindi.

The family released a statement through Australia Zoo wishing Irwin all the best.

”It has been a worrying time, but Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin and the entire Australia Zoo family are relieved that Bob is now doing well,” the statement said. ”Knowing Bob, he’s as tough as nails and will be back on his feet in no time.”

The conservationist wouldn’t tell the Nine Network if he sees his grandchildren often, but he said he does ”[keep] in contact with family members on a regular basis”.

”I think Terri’s done a great job with those children, she’s had to raise them herself,” Irwin said, in rare praise of his daughter-in-law.

”They are well-adjusted children – they have a good background with their dad. Nobody could be more down to earth than Steve was. They’ve got a great future ahead of them.”

He says he has plenty of admiration for the conservation work his grandchildren are doing. ”I’m really excited about the projects they are involved in,” Irwin said.

Bindi is also excited about her upcoming plans, and says she’s ”looking forward to tackling the bigger issues facing our world today” after her 16th birthday.

She wants to bring conservation issues into public discussion.

”The non-consumptive use of wildlife and over human population tend to be topics that are not openly discussed and until we start talking about these issues, we can’t create positive change,” Bindi said.

She is studying a Certificate III in Business and Tourism at Tafe, and says she wants to use it to help her mum manage the zoo.

She says she’s not done with television and movies yet either. ”I also hope to continue my film work in order to spread my message of conservation. I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for me.”

A public birthday bash is planned at the Zoo on Bindi’s birthday, July 24. There is an open invite to the animal onesie-themed event, which will include a giraffe jumping-castle and face painting.

A low-key family event will follow the public party.

Bindi, who has been in the public eye since birth, seems sedate about the celebration, telling Nine: ”I plan to spend my birthday with my family, Chinese take-out and a good book.”

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