updated 04/20/2014 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 04/20/2014 AT 10:20 AM ET
George, meet George.
There, George came face-to-face with George the Bilby, a rat-like marsupial, which is also Australia’s version of the Easter bunny.
And the prince squealed with delight as he excitedly pawed at the fury creature.
George, who will be 9 months old on Tuesday, and his parents officially opened the Prince George Bilby Exhibit at the Sydney landmark, which lies across the harbor from the famous Opera House, part of the royal family’s tour Down Under.
They met the marsupial George in the Australian Nightlife enclosure. His original name was Boy but he was renamed George two months ago to celebrate the prince’s birth last year.
Prince George was carried in by his mother, and looked on in wonder at the crowd surrounding the enclosure and then wriggled his arms and legs, squealing and gurgling when he spotted his namesake bilby.
His parents took it in turns to hold him in their arms and to support him standing up on the ground, restraining him as he tried to climb into the enclosure to get at the bilby.
“He’s trying to grab his ear,” said Kate, who was wearing a yellow dress on a sun-kissed day. “If he gets it he’ll never let go,” said William, who kissed the top of his son’s head.
As the keeper Paul Davies coaxed the bilby closer to George, Kate stepped in to stop him, thinking it a bad idea. “He’s got quite a strong grab actually,” she said.
Davies said of the little animal, “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 are nocturnal animals which hide in burrows during the day. The rabbit-like creatures have 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.
There are 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.
George, dressed in blue shirt, navy shorts, socks, and shoes, also was carried by Kate inside the nightlife exhibit to view other nocturnal animals, including a bandicoot.
William and the keeper took turns to feed the creature, with Davies tempting him with a dish of beef, carrot, and live, wriggling mealworms which William also fed him.
After touring the enclosure, William and Kate unveiled a plaque that read: “A national gift from the Commonwealth Government to commemorate the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.”
The baby prince interrupted a speech by the zoo’s director, Cameron Kerr, with some enthusiastic squealing before gleefully taking a present: a stuffed toy bilby. There was another gift too: a yellow car sticker that said, “Wild child on board.” George tried to chew it. “Munch, munch, munch,” said William.
His son threw the toy bilby on the floor to the laughter of everyone watching. “He does love it honestly,” said William, who was wearing a blue short-sleeved check shirt and navy pants.
George was handed over to his nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, and taken off to the shade as the rest of the royal party went on to the tree kangaroo enclosure, where supervisor Vanessa Stebbings and keeper Sam Bennett encouraged them to feed the small marsupials with tasty snacks including avocado.
The couple, who were cheered by crowds lining the route, also stopped off to feed carrots to the giraffes before going on to view an Australian native animal show featuring a koala, a pink galah bird, and other species.
The royal couple were greeted by more than 3,000 people on the route during the tour of the zoo. Some had been waiting long before the 9:30 a.m. opening.