BRISBANE, Australia – The father of late television star Steve Irwin said he quit the family's Australian conservation park because he had become a "disrupting influence," although the widow of the khaki-clad "Crocodile Hunter" denies a rift in the clan.
Australian media have speculated for months that Terri Irwin, the U.S.-born wife of the television host and mother of his two children, had fallen out with Bob Irwin following his son's death in a 2006 stingray attack.
In brief excerpts released Thursday of Bob Irwin's first interview since he left the park earlier this year, he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. he "was becoming a disrupting influence, not that I meant to be." There was no elaboration.
Steve Irwin's parents established a reptile haven in the early 1970s in the Sunshine Coast region of Queensland state, and handed control of it to him two decades later, just before his television career took off. The park, named Australia Zoo, became the center of Steve Irwin's multimillion-dollar television, tourist and conservation operations.
"It's a strange feeling to spend half your lifetime building something up and walking away from it," Bob Irwin said in another interview excerpt.
Terri Irwin has said she plans to expand the park to include hotel accommodation and a spa. She has also vowed to continue her late husband's conservation work. Their daughter Bindi is being groomed to follow her father into television.
Terri Irwin has tried to dampen speculation her father-in-law left the park because he disagreed with way his son's legacy was being handled.
"I just can assure everyone that I love Bob dearly," Terri Irwin told reporters last month, noting that he was mourning not only his son but also his first wife. "He's gone through so much grief losing his wife and his only son that I will respectfully just leave it at that."
Separately, Terri Irwin is facing legal problems.
Australia Zoo and Terri Irwin are both being sued by a debt recovery agency for more than $2.3 million allegedly owed to creditors. The case is in the preliminary stages before the courts.