1 JULY 2008

There was some animal magic in store for the Belgian royals this week as Crown Prince Philippe and his wife Mathilde treated their young family to a day out at Antwerp zoo. And while 11-week-old Eleonore is still too young to appreciate the exotic wildlife encounter, her big brothers and sister were as enthusiastic as could be.

It wasn't just the real animals that interested the young royals, either. While two-year-old Emmanuel perched atop a stone hippo under the watchful eye of his mum, big sister Elisabeth, six, busied herself climbing on another.

Some plastic frogs grabbed the three oldest children's attention, too. As their dad prepared the camera to take a few snapshots of the fun, Emmanuel, Elisabeth and four-year-old Gabriel squirted water at each other from the mouths of the colourful amphibians.

Meanwhile Mathilde, with newly baptised baby Eleonore in her arms, kept a keen eye on the mischievous trio from the sidelines.

Photo: ©
Sitting atop a stone hippo little Emmanuel seemed just as taken by the animal replicas as he was by the real thing Photo: © Getty Images Click on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
The family of six check out the elephant enclosure during their day trip to Antwerp zoo Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
...while baby Eleonore was content in her proud mum's arms Photo: © Getty Images
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