British royal couple Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton on Wednesday visited Kaziranga National Park in a jeep safari and later also went to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) where they spent a couple of hours with orphaned rhinos and elephants.
The couple, who arrived in Tezpur from New Delhi on Tuesday evening, stayed overnight at the Diphlu River Lodge in Kaziranga before taking a jeep safari for over two hours inside the national park that is home to the highest number of one-horned rhinos. Kaziranga also has the highest tiger density in the country.
A Park official said the royal couple also had breakfast at one of the forest guards’ camps inside Kaziranga where they were briefed on the anti-poaching measures taken to reduce rhino poaching. Prince William particularly asked about the challenges the front-line staff face while ensuring safety of the Park inmates from poachers and if they required superior weapons.
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- Royal couple Kate and Prince William go on jungle safari at Kaziranga
Later in the day the couple visited the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Panbari, just outside the national park, where they interacted with the animal keepers and even hand-fed some of the orphaned animals being reared at CWRC. They spent a lot of time with two elephant calves Buree and Murphuli, both of whom were rescued last October, and are now being raised on milk formula under the watchful eyes of their keepers. They also hand-fed Dunga, a male rhino calf, the youngest and newest resident at CWRC and the best of friends with the two female elephant calves.
The only facility in India where orphaned and/or injured wild animals of several species are hand-raised and treated and subsequently returned to the wild, the CWRC in Kaziranga has till March 2016 handled 4,322 animal cases, with 2,465 being released back to the wild – a rehabilitation rate of nearly 60 percent, an official said. The CWRC was set up jointly by the Assam government and the IFAW-WTI.
“We are delighted that Their Royal Highnesses made time to visit the IFAW- WTI centre and meet staff and the animals under care,” said Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO. “With elephants and rhinos in particular facing an uncertain future due to habitat loss, human conflict and poaching, IFAW is pleased that the Duke and Duchess are able to raise public awareness of these threats to an international audience,” she added.
They also visited the upcoming Kaziranga Discovery Park, a clinic for (and learning centre on) Asian elephants being developed by the UK-based NGO Elephant Family in collaboration with WTI.