Conservation was the focus of Day 4 of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to India, and it began with a safari.
At Kaziranga National Park, Assam, where the couple arrived last night, William and Kate boarded a jeep to take in the sights of the world’s largest one-horn rhino park. Two thirds of the remainder of the species live here.
Dressed casually, the pair came within 50 yards of a rare one-horned rhino in the Bagori national park, a World Heritage site on the banks of the River Brahmaputra. Conservation of endangered wildlife is something the Duke has been supporting for a number of years.
Joining them was a ranger armed with a rifle loaded with tranquillizer ammunition, should any animal become too much of a threat.
The Duke, 33, quickly spotted a rhino mother and her baby in the distance, causing his wife to gasp “Oh wow.”
A large rhino also blocked their path at one point. “This is amazing!” the Duchess said. “It’s amazing to be this close,” Prince William said.
The first half of the safari was with the media, but for the second hour, the couple were left alone. Catherine was seen with her camera, taking photos of an elephant herd.
It was then to the park’s Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, which cares for orphaned and stranded animals before releasing them back into the wild where possible. Will and Kate got the chance to feed some of the younger rhino and elephant guests.
The couple patted the animals as they fed them, clearly enjoying the experience.
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.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were said to be happy to be in Assam, a region famous for its tea, as they love the traditional British drink. They were treated to a cup at the centre.
The parents of George and Charlotte then visited a community village in the park, joking that Prince George was ‘too naughty’ to have brought to India. The Cambridges explained their two-year-old would have been running around if he had accompanied them as he did to Australia and New Zealand.
The comments were prompted by the Duchess seeing local children, particularly those of a similar age to her children, made her miss Princess Charlotte.
The Duke and Duchess were given models of painted baby elephants for Prince George and Princess Charlotte when they visited the Kaziranga Discovery Park; the park was built by Elephant Family, the charity founded by Mark Shand, late brother of William’s stepmother, Camilla.
Mr Shand died after hitting his head on the pavement after a fall in New York in 2014.
“The first thing they said after we introduced ourselves was how sorry they were about Mark,” said Ruth Powys, CEO.
“William said how Mark always talked about Asia. It means a huge amount that they are here today putting the spotlight on what we are doing.
“Mark would be so proud of the centre. He was a great man and adventurer and this centre is a wonderful legacy.”
Catherine, 34, was asked to help finish the painting of a fibreglass elephant, to be part of a fundraising campaign in which 300 painted elephants will be placed around India. William also had a go.
The couple received two small elephants painted by children for George, 2, and Charlotte, 11 months.
An earthquake hit Myanmar today, 7.0 on the richter scale, which was also felt by The Duke and Duchess in India.