Kengie Tang on Steve Irwin, her love for animals, conservation, and taking a gap year to help out her furry friends

By Sebastien Raybaud

Kengie Tang is crazy about animals. She tells us how Australia’s beloved ‘Crocodile Hunter’, Steve Irwin, inspired her to pursue a career helping animals

By Sebastien Raybaud |

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“Crikey, mate!” The famous catchphrase of animal enthusiast and TV star Steve Irwin is still recognisable even more than a decade after his tragic death. The larger-than-life Australian presenter of the show The Crocodile Hunter inspired kids everywhere to appreciate the natural world – including 18-year-old Kengie Tang. The recent Discovery College graduate is mad about animals and plans to devote her life to helping them.

“Back then The Crocodile Hunter was still airing on TV regularly and it was my all-time favourite show,” Tang told Young Post. “To a seven-year-old, he was a fearless hero.

“I admired him – I had never seen anyone risking their life the way he did for the show and to forge special relationships with all the exotic animals.”

Tang’s own love of animals stems from living in the urban wilderness of Hong Kong – it isn’t quite the Australian outback, but it has its own species in need of protection.

“I have found many injured birds that have flown into glass panels, some to avoid humans, some just because they don’t understand the glass is in the way,” Tsang explained, alluding to the impact of humans on the city’s wildlife.

Meeting Jokia at Chiang Mai's Elephant Nature Park, in Thailand. Jokia was deliberately blinded in both eyes she refused to work after suffering a miscarriage.
Photo: Kengie Tang

“One day at the vet clinic I work at, we found a mynah [a bird native to southern Asia] fledgling at our doorstep, with stray cats near the area. We took it in, but because there were cats in the clinic and other nurses owned cats, I decided to take the bird home to foster.

“The experiences [I’ve had] with birds have really driven me towards the animal sciences.”

Tang received the English Schools Foundation’s Charitable Award for Embodying Spirit and Values of the School thanks to her efforts supporting animal charities, such as Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) and Action for Singapore Dogs. She is a firm believer in the power of younger generations to make a positive impact.

“Habitat destruction, environmental damage, animal endangerment – these things have prompted me to take action. It is vital to recognise the youth who will be the future leaders, thinkers and creators,” she said.

Tang has partnered with Red Panda Network, an organisation which protects Asian red pandas, to raise local awareness about this species by conducting lessons for primary students at her former school. During these classes, Tang asks her students to brainstorm ideas about what they can do to protect the red panda.

A baby bird that was left outside the clinich, who Kengie fostered at home after it was checked by vets.
Photo: Kengie Tang

“It was surprising to hear Primary Three and Four students suggest ideas about conservation, fundraising, and enforcing laws on animal protection,” she said. “Seeing them engaging with global issues like that really gave me hope for the future.”

Tang wants to go to university, but plans on pushing it back a year so she can focus on charity work.

“Taking a gap year allows me to continue working as a volunteer at Kirsten’s Zoo, a local animal rescue organisation, and Island Veterinary in Discovery Bay,” she explained. “It means I can grow in maturity and have a clearer mindset before heading to university.”

And yet Tang already seems clear about the path she wants to pursue – much like her hero, Irwin.

“Some thought he [Irwin] was crazy, but I saw it as an intense passion and commitment to do what he loved,” she said. “Like Irwin, I hope I will be doing something

I love.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge