Ever since Bindi Irwin was born, Terri Irwin assumed her daughter's destiny would be to help her parents run Australia Zoo.
But as with all best-laid plans, life – and, tragically, death – has got in the way of Terri's grand vision.
At the age of 56, and a widow after the terrible loss of her husband Steve in 2006, the mum-of-two had been secretly hoping she could start slowing down and pass the animal rescue reins to her 22-year-old daughter – especially since it's been a rough year financially and emotionally due to the pandemic shutting the business' doors for more than two months and curtailing visits from overseas tourists.
But with Bindi marrying and falling pregnant in quick succession last year, Terri's staring down the barrel of her offsider going on a year-long maternity leave.
Luckily for Terri, there's still another Irwin heir who can help – or so she thought.
Insiders say her son Robert, 17, is "pulling against" being as involved in the zoo's future as his sister, and is instead dreaming of branching out on his own.
"He always expected the zoo to mainly be Bindi's thing, and lately he's been thinking about his other options," says a source.
"Terri would never stop Robert chasing his dreams, but privately she must feel that his coming of age couldn't be happening at a worse time for her."
In recent weeks, Robert has been strongly hinting he's ready to fly the nest.
"2020. What can I say. You've been weird... you've bought some of the most difficult challenges & devastating losses, but also the most unforgettable milestones and beautiful, life changing moments," he wrote on social media, listing learning guitar and painting as ways he's found solace.
"Having time to stop and take stock, Robert realised there's so much more out there," says the insider.
"He's a very creative soul and finds more joy in photography and art than he does hanging out for hours in the wildlife rescue surgery like Bindi does.
"They are close but they are also chalk and cheese. Bindi belongs in the zoo helping her mum continue Steve's legacy, but there's a realisation that Robert may not."
"Terri is hoping like heck he sticks around for a couple more years while Bindi's raising her baby, just to give her a little help."
"If Robert pursues his art, Terri's in huge trouble – but she's also wary of making him stay because doing that could drive him away even more. Sadly for her, deep down, she suspects the day he says 'I quit,' is not too far away."
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