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William and Kate feed orphaned elephants and rhinos at Indian wildlife park

The Duchess of Cambridge feeds a baby rhino at the Panbari reserve forest in Kaziranga on 13 April 2016 Image copyright Reuters

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have fed orphaned baby elephants and rhinos during a tour of one of the world's most important wildlife parks.

The keen conservationists, on a seven-day tour of India and Bhutan, also went on a safari at Kaziranga National Park.

They came within 50 yards of a rare one-horned rhino during the visit.

The royal couple also visited a community in the park, joking to a village elder that Prince George was "too naughty" to have brought to India.

They told him that the two-year old prince would have been running around if he had accompanied them on the trip, their first official visit to the country.

Catherine remarked that seeing local children in the village, especially young girl dancers, made her miss Princess Charlotte, who turns one next month.

In pictures: Duke and duchess in India

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The pair were driven in an open-topped 4x4 on the safari, during their first official tour of India
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are estimated to be 2,400 one-horned rhinos, out of a global population of 3,300, at the park in Assam

The pair toured Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam in an open-topped 4x4, also catching sight of elephants, monkeys and a monitor lizard.

The duke remarked it was "amazing" to be so close to the rare rhino while at the park, which is home to two-thirds of the world's population of the animal.

Kaziranga, a world heritage site, is estimated to be home to 2,400 one-horned rhinos out of a global population of 3,300. The animal is currently listed as "vulnerable" by conservation groups.

The national park is also home to elephants, water buffalo, the endangered swamp deer and tigers

Tremors from an earthquake in Myanmar, also known as Burma, were felt in Assam and other eastern Indian states on Wednesday.

But Kitty Tawakley, a spokeswoman for the British High Commission in New Delhi, said Prince William and Catherine were safe, the Associated Press reported.


Analysis

Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

When Prince Philip was in India with the Queen in 1961 he shot a tiger.

He and his wife posed for a picture in front of the spoils of his hunting.

Prince William is a different generation royal with a different agenda - to save not shoot Asia's one-horned rhinoceros.

The two-tonne creatures - one of the oldest living mammals on the planet - are falling prey to poachers pursuing them for their horns.

The prince and his wife have witnessed the work being done at Kaziranga National Park to protect them.

They've also been told about the pressures that arise from people living close to wild animals.

William, the campaigning conservation prince, hopes he can exploit the intense interest that is focused on his young family and draw the world's attention to the threat of extinction hanging over India's rhinoceros unicornis.

Read more from Peter Hunt


Conservationist Rita Banerji, who met them at the park, said: "They had a lot of questions about the wildlife situation in the country.

"This visit by the royal couple will definitely help in grabbing attention of a global audience to the threats that endangered species face."

William and Catherine visited a village on the edge of the park after the safari to find out how villagers live side-by-side with the wild animals.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The centre provides emergency care and rehabilitation for wild animals that have been orphaned, injured or displaced
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption William and Kate fed milk to elephant calves at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation

At the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Panbari reserve forest, they fed milk formula to a group of baby animals.

Vivek Menon, chief executive officer of the Wildlife Trust of India, which established the CWRC with a number of other bodies, said: "They were absolutely thrilled and loved being with the animals.

"The duchess loved the baby rhino particularly. The duke said if he could he would have spent the whole day there."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The couple shared a joke as they decorated an Elephant Parade statue at Kaziranga Discovery Park
Image copyright PA
Image caption Villagers danced for the couple in Panbari Village
Image copyright AP
Image caption The couple walked through a village tea garden in Kaziranga

After touring the centre, they visited the Kaziranga Discovery Park built by the Elephant Family, the charity founded by Mark Shand, the late brother of the Duchess of Cornwall.

They saw the first-of-its-kind health clinic for working elephants and an elephant information centre which is under construction.

William and Catherine also had the chance to show off their artistic sides by painting an Elephant Parade statue.

The couple's visit to Assam coincides with the Bohag Bihu festival, the celebration of the Assamese new year.

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