Photo Exclusive: Royal fever as Harry and Meghan visit Taronga Zoo hours after baby announcement!
By ANNA USHER.
Mosman locals were swept up in Royal fever today, as we played host to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, on the first official day of their Australian tour.
Harry and Meghan dedicated the morning to conservation, arriving at Taronga Zoo at 10:30am, to officially open its new Institute of Science and Learning.
A small group of local dignitaries, residents and major donors were invited to formally meet the couple, after a ribbon cutting ceremony and plaque unveiling that took place in the Institute’s foyer.
Zoofari Chairperson and McGrath real estate agent Priscilla Schonell said Prince Harry and Meghan were genuinely happy to visit Taronga Zoo, with the Duchess of Sussex “absolutely beaming” when she spoke of her Australian visit.
“Meghan is authentic, elegant and absolutely beautiful,” Priscilla told Mosman Collective.
“Cameron Kerr introduced the couple to our small group of three; we curtseyed, shook hands and the couple were very happy to be congratulated on their baby news.
“Harry said ‘thank you’ and told us he was very excited about the pregnancy – it was a wonderful moment,” she said.
Zoofari committee member, and Mosman local Tash Sefton, told Mosman Collective she congratulated the Duchess on her baby news, also thanking her for supporting Taronga’s conservation efforts.
“She was incredibly gracious, and it was a very special moment for everyone in the room,” Tash said.
“I also spoke to Prince Harry and thanked him for being involved in trying to stop wildlife trafficking – and then we talked about the weather!
“Harry told me that last time he was in Sydney he was caught in a storm, while he was sailing on Sydney Harbour.”
The parents-to-be then met their koala namesakes for the first time, and were introduced to Lynx, a short-legged echidna. When Prince Harry asked if the animal was drooling due to stress, the Royals were told he was simply “excited to see them”.
Councillor Roy Bendall told Mosman Collective that Harry and Meghan were “relaxed and happy” at the private gathering, with the pair keenly interested to learn more about the new science facility at the zoo.
“Harry told us that Taronga was one of the most progressive zoo’s in the world, which is a great credit to the people who work here,” he said.
“Harry and Meghan were also given two platypus lapel pins in honour of their visit.
“They were both thoroughly charming,” he said.
Resident Kylie Redden was among the lucky few to enjoy a chance encounter with the Royal couple, after detouring to Taronga on her morning walk.
“I was surprised that the zoo wasn’t closed to the public, so a friend and I headed inside to have a peek, not for a moment expecting what was about to happen,” she said.
“Quite by chance we noticed that the Sky Safari had a sign up saying it was closed – and then the penny dropped.
“We had a pretty strong idea that Harry and Meghan would leave the zoo via the gondola, so we just waited around – and got lucky!”
Kylie said a small group of onlookers gathered, including tradesmen and gardeners working at the zoo – and then a man arrived carrying a bouquet of flowers, hoping to give them to the Duchess.
“When the man with the flowers turned up, another lady ran into the Taronga shop and bought an Australian wildlife book. And because there were a couple of gifts, the Royal minders came over to collect them,” she said.
“The next minute, Harry and Meghan were walking towards the gondola and then they made eye contact with us.
“Meghan broke away from the entourage and headed straight for our group with the biggest smile on her face.
“It is a moment I won’t ever forget.”
Kim Gleason, from Villa Deluxe Boutique, was another local thrilled to make a connection with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
An interior designer, the mother-of-five has just launched her first collection of organic cotton baby wraps, sending her gift-wrapped range off to Taronga with her Nanny and daughter “on a whim”.
“When we heard the news about the pregnancy last night, we thought it might be a good idea to give Harry and Meghan some beautiful muslin wraps as a gift.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would accept them, but they did – and my daughter Evelyn and her friend Byron got to meet the Duchess too.
“I still can’t quite believe it’s happened!”
Tomorrow, Harry and Meghan head to central west NSW, where a crowd of 10,000 is expected to join them for a community picnic in Dubbo. On Thursday the pair travel to Melbourne, before spending time on Bondi Beach this Friday, ahead of the Invictus Games opening ceremony.