Their Royal Highnessess, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were introduced to some of Australia’s unique and endangered wildlife at Taronga Zoo today, officially opening the Zoo’s new Bilby exhibit named in honour of their son, Prince George.
During their visit this afternoon, the Royal couple, accompanied by young Prince George, unveiled a plaque commemorating the dedication of the Prince George Bilby Exhibit.
Taronga Zoo Director, Cameron Kerr said: “We were honoured to be visited by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to acknowledge the official gift of the Australian Government celebrating the birth of their son, Prince George.”
“This gift has enabled Taronga Zoo to expand its role in the regional breeding and recovery program for Bilbies, which are a vulnerable species, with the intention to breed and release these beautiful animals back into the wild in the future.
“It was wonderful and very encouraging to see that the Royal couple share our appreciation for Australian wildlife and commitment to wildlife conversation,” said Cameron.
The Duke and Duchess met Taronga’s male Bilby, also named George, before embarking on a tour of the Zoo, stopping to feed the Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos and giraffes on the way.
Bilby Keeper, Paul Davies said: “Prince George was absolutely fantastic. I’ve never seen a little boy quite so excited about meeting a Bilby. He had his hands up on the glass of the exhibit and he was patting the glass. A big part of wildlife conservation is about raising awareness and today we’ve an opportunity to showcase the bilby not only to Australia, but to the world.”
The Royal couple also received a demonstration of Taronga’s new Wildlife Witness app, developed in partnership with TRAFFIC, which enables users to report illegal wildlife trade using their smartphones.
The tour culminated in a special Australian wildlife presentation at Taronga Zoo’s Bird Show arena overlooking the Sydney Harbour and skyline.
The Royal couple smiled broadly throughout the presentation, which included iconic Australian birds and mammals such as koalas, echidnas and quokkas, before joining the Zoo’s keepers on stage at the conclusion of the show.
Bird Show keeper, Brendan Host said: “They were very friendly. I think they enjoyed their experience and I definitely enjoyed meeting them. More than anything else, it was a wonderful chance to show the amazing diversity of wildlife we have here in Australia.”
The Duke and Duchess also met and spoke with Sydney teenagers Billy Taylor, 14 and Freya Overton, 15, both members of Taronga’s Youth At The Zoo (YATZ), a fun, educational program for 13 - 19 year olds.