William and Kate highlight wildlife conservation on India trip

India's one-horned rhino received a royal visit Wednesday as Britain's Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took a safari in the Kaziranga national park and observed wildlife conservation efforts in the region first-hand.

"The Duke and Duchess spotted rhino, water buffalo, spotted deer and a number of bird species," Kensington Palace wrote on Twitter.

There was no mention of the elusive tiger, which also inhabits Kaziranga. The royal couple also met wildlife rangers at the park.

Prince William, second in line for succession to the British throne, and his wife Kate are visiting India and Bhutan on a week-long tour.

Prince William has a keen interest in wildlife conservation and as president of United for Wildlife, he has long wanted to visit Kaziranga, according to Kensington Palace.

The national park in the northeastern state of Assam is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to two-thirds of the world's population of the Rhinoceros Unicornis - more commonly known as the Indian rhinoceros.

Conservationists are hoping the British royal couple's visit will shine a spotlight on the threatened rhino as well as efforts to protect the wild elephant.

There are likely to be a raft of newspaper front pages on Thursday with photographs of William and Kate after two incidents on Wednesday.

A rhino blocked the path of their open-top jeep before he turned his back on them and walked off the road.

Kate also fed a baby rhino and an elephant calf from jug-sized bottles at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation at Borjuri, bordering the park.

The conservation centre provides emergency care and rehabilitation to wild animals in the park that have been injured, orphaned or displaced.

William and Kate also visited the Kaziranga Discovery Centre run by the non-profit Elephant Family founded by conservationist Mark Shand, brother of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and William's stepmother.

The couple visited the health clinic for elephants and saw the information centre before interacting with villagers relocated by the charity to keep them out of a path followed by elephants across the forest.

They painted colours and butterflies on an elephant statue at the centre to highlight a call for artists across India to participate in the Elephant Family's elephant parade programme, NDTV news channel reported.

The parade would see 200 elephant statues decorated by artists placed across India to raise awareness about the animal and the need for its protection. Similar parades have been held in London, Edinburgh and New York.

The couple also met members of local communities in their villages, British High Commission officials accompanying them said.

Kate sat at a handloom as they interacted with weavers at Panbari village and squatted on the floor with locals at the Ram Terang village hall.

William and Kate's visit coincides with the local Bohag Bihu or Assamese new year festival, which is celebrated with song and dance. Traditional red and white sari-clad dancers greeted them at the villages.

The British royal couple are scheduled to fly to Bhutan on Thursday.

Last update: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 16:40

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