Above: Prince George of Cambridge meets a bilby called George at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia on April 20. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Note: The article below is from the Guardian.
Nothing but curved Perspex separated the prince from his endangered marsupial namesake.
George the bilby and George the baby were equally inquisitive – at one point the prince attempted to climb the barricade and enter the Australian Nightlife enclosure.
"If you think of kings of the past, he has got that worldly presence,” said bilby keeper Paul Davies, of the small, desert-dwelling omnivore. “He has very little fear of anything. He calls his own shots.”
Davies, born in Hertfordshire, looked like a Quentin Blake illustration of a zookeeper: bushy pony-tailed, friendly-faced. And despite the mild delusions of grandeur directed towards his favoured animal – the bilby will live for only seven years and was simply called Boy before news of the royal visit inspired a name change – Davies had a neat point.
“Today was the meaning of conservation. We’ve put them on the map.”
He meant the bilby, of course, but the baby prince also knows a thing or two about self-preservation. Since his birth in July, the approval numbers for an Australian republic have fallen off a cliff: 51% of Australians now support the status quo – the highest in decades.
The opportunity for a short moment with the nine-month-old heir sent Sydney’s Taronga zoo into meltdown. It had reached capacity even before he arrived.
Earlier in the day, the royal couple celebrated Easter with the prime minister, Tony Abbott, at a service at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in central Sydney.
Like all royal appearances on this tour – now in its fifth day – the little prince’s zoo trip was short. Just minutes later the child was whisked off.
That left Kate and William to fend for themselves at the bird amphitheatre, where Jojo the galah swooped to within about five inches of Kate’s groomed head of hair.
They entered to a booming didgeridoo rendition. William paid little attention. He was already transfixed by Maggie the koala, who sat in eucalyptus branches. Maggie’s eyes were locked elsewhere, though, as she chomped leaves distractedly.
Both royals sat listening patiently as the enthusiastic and appropriately named bird keeper Brendon Host hosted a spectacular Australian moving menagerie. More birds swooped: sulphur-crested cockatoos, a barking owl. Stellar the black kite plucked dead insects hurled into the air; Lynx and Jindi the echidnas scuttled on stage and Autumn, the little quokka, was lifted out.
The whole show was two months in the planning. There was just one dress rehearsal.
Host invited the royal couple onto the stage. They accepted and posed with the wildlife.
It was all about the koala, though. “Is this the moment everyone has been waiting for?” William asked as he approached. He already knew the answer.
He patted it on the head. Kate gave it a sniff, impressed we were told later by how it “smelt of eucalyptus”. The harbour bridge sat in the background. The Opera House shone.
This was the embodiment of soft power, and it was executed like clockwork.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010