June 08, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

She turns nine next month, but Bindi Irwin has the grace and poise of someone many years older. The daughter of the late Steve Irwin came up from the land Down Under — with her wildlife conservationist mom Terri — to talk about her new show, Bindi: The Jungle Girl (debuting Sat., June 9 at 5 p.m. ET on Discovery Kids) and My Daddy the Croc Hunter (Fri., June 8 at 9 p.m. ET on Animal Planet), a one-hour special about growing up with the beloved animal expert who died less than a year ago in a tragic stingray accident. EW.com spoke with Terri and young Bindi, who has inherited her father’s eyes, smile, and, of course, love of creatures. In the middle of a hectic day of TV appearances (the Today show) and diplomatic meet-and-greets (she visited the deputy Secretary-General of the U.N. for World Environment Day), the energetic youngster sat back in a hotel room overlooking New York’s Central Park and filled us in on her busy schedule.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is this your first time in New York City?
BINDI IRWIN: No, we’ve come here a lot. I love it here — it’s very beautiful. I love Central Park. Because you have building, building, building, building, building, TREES, building, building, building, building. So it’s really, really nice that we have something like that.

What are your favorite things to do here?
I love doing what I’m doing now, teaching people about wildlife. And I also love [pause] shopping here. FAO Schwarz and Toys R Us.

Have you been to American Girl Place?
Nooooooo. [Eyes open wide]

On the show, you show us the treehouse that you live in. What do you do when it rains?
It’s got a roof — it’s a pretty good treehouse. I love it.

I hear you sleep with a…snake?
I do. Corny the corn snake — he’s very cute. Some animals come and go, but I actually live with Corny the corn snake. And there’s Blacky, the black-headed python; Jaffa, my koala; and Ocker, my favorite little cockatoo. I have other birds also. Some elephants come and visit me — very nice. And Peru, the iguana. When you pet her head, she goes to sleep.

Did you bring any pets with you on this trip?
No, I wasn’t allowed to. [Forms air quotes and leans forward, conspiratorially…] Quarantine matters. I did bring my little pet brother, though. I love him very much. He’s very cute and just turned three-and-a-half.

Do you have a favorite animal?
I love crocodiles and snakes. I have a special talent with snakes, and I just love crocs. They’re very good mothers, they’re very good husbands and wives — they’re just great.

What would you say to girls your age who are grossed out by snakes and crocodiles?
We’re just getting pretty much further and further away from animals, and I think we really need to get closer to them because we’re just distancing ourselves from them so rapidly. We’re not that different. We might have different personalities and a different outside coat, but it’s like somebody came along and killed you for your skin. The bottom line is, don’t buy boots, bags, and belts made out of wildlife products. You just can’t do that. It’s very not nice. Like with shark finning, people actually cut sharks’ dorsal fins and put it in shark-fin soup and they just let the shark drown. And so that’s really sad, because all they use is their fins. If we kill a species, I like to say, That’s one brick off a hotel or a house, and pretty soon, if we start killing all the species, the house is going to fall down.

NEXT PAGE: What would Bindi’s dad have thought of her show?

What can kids do?
Easy things. With the ozone layer and global warming, you could take the bus to school or work or [use] your rollerblades or your skateboard or just walk or run or something like that. It would be much better than all these cars.

Do you go to a regular school?
I do home-schooling. My teacher, Miss Emma, is pretty much my best friend. I love her very much. We teach each other stuff. I teach her about wildlife, she teaches me, like, math or English or social studies or science.

Do you have a favorite subject?
Creative writing. Actually, I’m with an organization called Woman’s Weekly. I do articles every month about wildlife: crocodiles, snakes, turtles, elephants — anything that you could poke a stick at! [Laughs] So that’s really nice, because I get to do that sort of stuff and it goes into a magazine, which is very nice. I think I’m just the luckiest kid in the world.

The word ”crikey” is used throughout the show. What does it mean?
Okay, crikey’s sort of a thing for like, ”Crikey, mate!” Mate is like a friend, and crikey is sort of like, ”Have a go at this,” or, ”Look at this,” or, ”Wow!” [This is followed by a discussion about the word fanny, which, I’m embarrassed to discover, refers to a quite different part of the female anatomy in Australia.]

What do the Crocmen in your show do?
They’re great — really, really cute guys. My Dad actually named them. They sing and dance with me — they’re like the backup singers.

Do you sing a lot of the songs on the show?
I do. Like, ”I am an Elephant of India,” or ”Monkey in the Jungle,” or ”Snake in the Grass.” [She goes on to sing one of the show’s songs full-on.]

Did you have voice lessons?
No, I just learned the songs, and I sang them, pretty much.

Any other shows or movies you like to watch?
I like Hannah Montana and Happy Feet. My dad played in Happy Feet. He was the elephant seal. [He’s the one with the deepest voice — Ed.]

What do you think your dad would have thought of your show?
I can’t speak for my Dad, but I hope he likes it, because I really wanted to do that, especially for him. [At this point, Terri, who let Bindi be the star of the interview, speaks up: ”I know what he thought. He was on the first seven episodes with you, and he said, ‘Bindi, I hope one day you just take this over. I’m loving watching you do this.’ He was so proud.” Turning to the interviewer, Terri continues: ”And when Bindi would sing with the Crocmen, he’d have tears in his eyes. He was a good teacher. He’d say, ‘Bindi, look at what the animal’s doing and talk about it. You don’t have to worry about knowing the gestation period of the possum. If the possum’s doing something funny, talk about what it’s doing.’ So he gave these great gifts of, you know, ‘Always face the camera.’ He would talk to the camera like a person. And I’ve noticed Bindi’s picked that up very naturally as well.” ] One of the hardest things to learn was, ‘Always face the camera,’ because, sometimes, when you’re about to pick something up, you turn away. I’ve got to remind myself to stay on target. My dad was really good at that.

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