How Prince George, Nature Lover, Is Already Helping Endangered Animals

How Prince George, Nature Lover, Is Already Helping Endangered Animals
From left: William, Kate and George
Samir Hussein/WireImage

07/25/2014 AT 11:50 AM EDT

It's the Prince George effect – naturally!

No, not just in fashion, where, like his mom Kate, the clothes he wears sell out. The year-old prince's influence is also being felt in the animal world, thanks to his love of all creatures great and small.

He's been photographed with butterflies. And after his high-profile April outing to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, where he met his namesake George the bilby, interest in the rabbit-like Australian marsupial species has rocketed.

"There was been an amazing surge of interest online" following the pictures, says Mark Williams, a spokesman for the zoo, which named a bilby enclosure after George.



"There's been increased awareness of the bilby from visitors to our nocturnal exhibit, Australian Nightlife, which now has the plaque and sculpture dedicated by their Royal Highnesses at its entrance."

The bilby is listed as a threatened species under Australian law, and a national recovery plan has been put in place for the species. So the zoo is thrilled that people have been learning more about the little creatures.

Bilby merchandise at the zoo has "sold steadily," Williams says. "One of the many great outcomes of the visit was the global awareness of the bilby which the royals generated," he tells PEOPLE. "This awareness was something Australasian zoos were striving to achieve at the direction of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)."

With the support of the Australian government, the zoo is maintaining its role in the national breeding program for the species and is supporting research and other conservation work.



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