Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan walk down the stairs of Sydney’s iconic Opera House to meet people in Sydney on October 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018
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Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

  • The royal couple announced their pregnancy after arriving in Sydney
  • Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37 have stepped to the fore in the last year as the British queen reduced her public appearances

SYDNEY: A beaming Duke and Duchess of Sussex thrilled thousands of fans outside the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday during their first meeting with the general public since the former Meghan Markle’s newly announced pregnancy.
Prince Harry and Meghan spent longer than the 20 minutes allocated in their schedule to speak to and shake hands with as many well-wishers as possible. Meghan, wearing a beige trench coat over a sleeveless cream dress by Australian designer Karen Gee, accepted cards and flowers from an enthusiastic crowd.
The news of the pregnancy was announced after the couple arrived in Sydney on Monday and 15 hours before their first public appearance. The two are on a 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand that their Kensington Palace staff said would not be altered despite confirmation that the American former actress is pregnant.
Among those taken by surprise by the announcement were their Sydney hosts, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne Cosgrove. The governor-general, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s head of state and Harry’s grandmother, sent staff to hastily buy a toy kangaroo with a joey in its pouch and a tiny pair of Australian sheep skin boots for their pregnant guest.
“Here’s your first gift for the nursery,” the governor-general told the couple during the official welcome at his official residence, Admiralty House.
“Thank you, that’s so sweet,” Meghan said as she received the toy.
The pregnancy has made front-page news across Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline: “A smooth ride to Sydney, but royals reveal bump on the way.” Darwin’s irreverent NT News chose the headline: “Ginger Pregs” — a play on a long-running Australian comic strip about a mischievous red-head boy called “Ginger Meggs.”
Outside the Opera House on Tuesday, Harry lingered longest with war widow Daphne Dunne, 98, whom he hugged as they chatted.
It was the third time that they had met since Harry’s eye caught sight of a Victoria Cross medal on her chest during a Sydney visit in 2015. She explained that her first husband Albert Chowne had been given the highest award in the British honors system after he died in Papua New Guinea in 1945.
This time, Meghan joined Harry in greeting the Dunne, who admires the prince’s work with veterans.
“Oh my goodness, is this Daphne?” Meghan asked.
Dunne later said Meghan told her “she had heard all about me; she’s so beautiful.”
“I wished them well with the baby on the way and said this is what Harry has been waiting for so long,” Dunne added.
Before Megan donned her coat, her tight-fitting dress barely revealed a bump as they were welcomed at the first event of the day at the Sydney Harbor-side mansion where the two are staying.
The main focus of that engagement was to meet Invictus Games representatives from the 18 countries competing in the event that starts Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.
Several of the representatives congratulated the couple on their baby news. Meghan replied: “Thank you so much. We are very excited.”
The couple later traveled by boat to Taronga Park Zoo where they opened a research center and met two 10-month old koalas that had been named after them.
They watched an indigenous dance company rehearse inside the Opera House before meeting the public.
The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers about why Meghan was not joining Harry on his Sydney Harbor Bridge climb set for Friday.
Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37 — along with Prince William and his wife, Kate, the duchess of Cambridge — have stepped to the fore in the last year as the 92-year-old queen slightly reduces her public schedule.


Study finds robust polar bear population in sea near Alaska

In this undated photo provided by Eric Regehr, polar bears are seen on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Circle. (AP)
Updated 44 min 50 sec ago
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Study finds robust polar bear population in sea near Alaska

  • Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on sea ice

ANCHORAGE, Alaska: The first formal count of polar bears in waters between the United States and Russia indicates they’re doing better than some of their cousins elsewhere.
Polar bears are listed as a threatened species because of diminished sea ice due to climate change. But university and federal researchers estimate a robust and abundant population of nearly 3,000 animals in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast, according to a study published Wednesday in Scientific Reports.
“It the near-term, it’s absolutely good news,” said lead author Eric Regehr, who began the project more than a decade ago as a US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and last year joined the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center.
In the longer term, it doesn’t mean the Chukchi Sea bear population will not be affected.
“Polar bears need ice to hunt seals, and the ice is projected to decline until the underlying problem of climate change is addressed,” Regehr said.
The study shows there is variation around the world in the effects of sea ice loss on polar bears, he said Thursday.
“Some subpopulations are already declining while others are still doing OK,” he said.
Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on sea ice. Less sea ice means less productive time to hunt ice seals, more time on shore and longer, energy-sapping swims.
The world’s polar bears are divided into 19 subpopulations, including two in US waters. Besides Chukchi bears, the United States shares the southern Beaufort Sea population with Canada.
Stress in southern Beaufort bears from a loss of sea ice was partly why the United States in 2008 declared polar bears a threatened species.
Fewer cubs were surviving into their second year and adult males weighed less and had smaller skulls, the US Geological Survey found. Researcher Steven Amstrup at the time said the trends were consistent with changes in nutritional status likely associated with declines in sea ice.
A more recent study by USGS research Karyn Rode found that Chukchi bears spend more time on shore and have almost 30 fewer days to hunt seals on ice than 20 years ago, Regehr said. However, that doesn’t appear to have affected the population, he said.
Polar bears have an amazing ability to build fat reserves, Regehr said, and the Chukchi’s abundant seal population apparently allows bears to compensate for the loss of hunting time. The difference with the southern Beaufort was obvious from an airplane, he said.
“It’s visually striking to me, the difference, having worked in both places,” Regehr said.
When ice melts, many Chukchi bears rest on Russia’s Wrangell Island, where they occasionally can find a whale or walrus carcass.
The Chukchi population study used data collected by sampling about 60 polar bears between 2008 and 2016. Some were fitted with GPS transmitters. The data was used in a model designed to estimate population size for highly mobile large carnivores.
Blaine Griffen, an associate professor of biology at Brigham Young University, said the study was good news.
“It’s nice to see that there’s at least one population that’s doing better than others,” he said.
The difference may be geography, he said. The Chukchi Sea has a more extensive continental shelf area with primary productivity that enables the food chain to support seals.
The research agrees with past studies that suggested Chukchi bears would do better than bears elsewhere, Griffen said.