Crocodile Hunter's daughter seeks fame in US as Bindi, the Jungle Girl

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Four months after the death of her "Crocodile Hunter" father, eight-year-old Bindi Irwin is poised to step into his shoes, embarking on a high-profile tour of the US designed to launch her showbusiness career.

Despite her tender age, Bindi appears to have coped remarkably well with the loss of her father, Steve, who died minutes after his heart was pierced by a stingray's barb while he was filming on the Great Barrier Reef in September last year.

Irwin was famous for his daring, up-close antics with dangerous wildlife, particularly crocodiles, and his daughter is already carving the same reputation.

Later this year the Discovery Kids network will screen a 26-part series that she has made called Bindi, the Jungle Girl.

In her home country of Australia, child psychologists have warned that the little girl is not being given space to grieve. They also suggest that she would benefit from a childhood out of the spotlight.

But her American mother, Terri, insists that all Bindi wants to do is perform. She even gave an eloquent speech at her father's memorial service, held at his Queensland wildlife park within days of his death.

While in the US, Bindi will make a series of high-profile speeches and television appearances. She will address the National Press Club in Washington, and will appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Late Show with David Letterman.

The exuberant, khaki-clad Irwin was far more popular in the US than at home, thanks to his wildlife documentaries screened on the Discovery Channel.

The channel's senior vice-president, Annie Howell, predicted yesterday that Bindi would receive a similar reception. "She'll be welcomed with open arms, and rightly so," she said. "She's a very special child."

During her tour, the documentary that her father was working on when he died - called Ocean's Deadliest - is also planned to be be broadcast.

Bindi is already a veteran performer. At the family-owned Australia Zoo, she has been putting on a song and dance show for thousands of spectators, together with backing dancers called Crocmen.

She and the Crocmen will team up with The Wiggles, the Australian band that specialises in children's music, for concerts in New York and Los Angeles.

Irwin's manager, John Stainton, who was in a boat nearby when Irwin had his fatal encounter, said that Bindi's father had put on a big show in the US every year for the past three years.

As part of an Australian government promotion, Bindi will join two leading Australian actors, Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts, and the Australian-born media baron, Rupert Murdoch, for a gala dinner.

Ms Howell added that her television series would premiere in the United States in the next few months.