Asia-Pacific

Friday 1 August 2014

British Royal couple move to protect animal... from little George

Tony Jones, Press Association

Published 20/04/2014|10:28

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge look at a Bilby called George at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday April 20, 2014. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire
British Royals William and Kate, and Prince George look at a Bilby called George at Taronga Zoo in Sydney
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge look at a Bilby called George at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday April 20, 2014. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire
British Royals William and Kate, and Prince George look at a Bilby called George at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her husband, Britain's Prince William, watch as their son Prince George reacts after they unveiled a plaque to commemorate their visit to the enclosure for the Australian animal called a Bilby during a visit to Sydney's Taronga Zoo April 20, 2014. The Prince and his wife Kate are undertaking a 19-day official visit to New Zealand and Australia with their son George.      REUTERS/David Gray   (AUSTRALIA - Tags: ROYALS ENTERTAINMENT)
British Royals William and Kate, and Prince George reacts after they unveiled a plaque to commemorate their visit to the enclosure for the Australian animal called a Bilby during a visit to Sydney's Taronga Zoo

KATE MIDDLETON AND Prince William had to step in to protect an endangered Australian animal - from baby Prince George - during the British Royals' tour Down Under.

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The Cambridges took their eight-month-old son to Sydney's Taronga zoo to meet a bilby - a rabit-like marsupial - named after the royal infant.

But they had to warn keeper Paul Davies about their son's iron-like grip when he threatened to grab one of the ears of the creature, affectionately known as Australia's Easter bunny.

George clearly enjoyed his trip to the zoo and when he arrived, carried by his mother, he looked on in wonder at the crowd surrounding the enclosure and wriggled his arms and legs in excitement, squealing and gurgling when he spotted his namesake George the bilby.

His parents took it in turn to hold him in their arms and then to support him as he stood up and held on to a low clear plastic fence that surrounded the marsupial's pen.

At one point they had to grab on to their baby, who will one day be king, when he tried to climb into the enclosure to get at the bilby.

The Duchess, who wore a yellow summer dress by an independent maker, said "he's trying to grab his ear," and William added: "If he gets it he'll never let go," kissing the top of his son's head.

Mr Davies told the couple it would be fine for George to stroke the animal and went to coax the bilby closer but Kate stepped in to stop him, thinking it a bad idea, and said: "He's got quite a strong grab actually."

Zoo officials had to apply to the national Stud Book Keeper to have George, the bilby's new name, officially recognised and his old moniker Boy dropped.

Mr Davies said: "It did take me quite a while to stop calling him, 'Boy George'" and he thought the animal looked like a George and was regal too.

He added: "If you think of kings of the past he has got that worldly presence. He has very little fear of anything. He calls his own shots. He is a very confident little animal."

Greater bilbies, nocturnal marsupials who hide in burrows during the day, are rabbit-like creatures with large ears that pick up sounds of insects and have long noses to sniffs out seeds and bulbs.

They were once common in Australia's grassy woodlands but have been driven to the verge of extinction by predators such as foxes and cats and competition from rabbits, all introduced to the country by British settlers.

With only 10,000 left in the wild in northern Queensland and Western Australia, a conservation campaign begun in the late 1960s has gathered pace in the last decade with chocolate Easter bilbies replacing chocolate bunnies in many Australian children's homes.

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