Kaziranga (Assam): British royal couple Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton on Wednesday visited the Kaziranga National Park in a jeep safari.
Britain's Prince William (C), Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, feed baby elephants as a rhino calf looks on at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Panbari reserve forest in Kaziranga. Pic/PTI
Wearing the Assamese honour scarf 'Bihuwan', they sat in an open jeep with security vehicles escorting them into the Bagori range of the world heritage site known for one-horned rhinos.
After they came out of the park, officials accompanying the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge briefed the waiting journalists at the gate of KNP saying the couple saw rhinos, buck deer, buffaloes and many other animals. They also went to the Dunga and Rowmari Forest camps mostly inhabited by rhinos and tigers in the park. They had breakfast at Bimoli camp and interacted with the KNP frontline staff asking about the habits of rhinos and elephants, the officials said.
They also enquired about the anti-poaching measures and if they were satisfied with the efforts. Prince William enquired about the challenges they faced in their efforts to keep the animals safe from poachers and if they required superior weapons. The Duke and Duchess also asked about the families of the forest personnel, they said. The couple was informed about forest conservation efforts and anti-poaching measures adopted to reduce the killing of rhinos by poachers.
Before setting out on the safari, the royal couple was welcomed in front of the Kaziranga Information Centre by Principal Chief Conservator of Forest O P Pandey and Additional PCCF N K Yadav with the traditional 'Bihuwan'. They read in detail the map of the park and information about the animals with senior forest officials explaining to them where the animals could be spotted.
The royal couple had yesterday arrived at Tezpur on a two-day visit. After a 90-minute drive from Tezpur Airport, they came to the Diphlu River Lodge in Kaziranga where they were entertained with Assam's folk dance Bihu and Jhumur dance of the tea tribes.
Before the dance performances started, they observed the tradition of offering a 'horai' (bell metal plate with a stand) of 'paan-tambul' (betal nuts) with 'dokhina' (offerings) to the 'Gurujona' (God) for peace and prosperity of all.
The Duke and Duchess interacted with the dancers, drum players and pepa (local flute) players and Prince William even attempted to blow a pepa. He asked one pepa player Ankur Phukan from the bihu troupe at what age he started playing the instrument.
On Wednesday, before setting out on the safari, they soaked in the view from the sight seeing tower of the Diflu River Lodge while having their morning tea. Both the Duke and Duchess are scheduled to visit the Kaziranga Discovery Centre, where the Mark Shand Asian Elephant Learning Centre is situated, to see and know the activities of the Captive Elephant Clinic which completed 4883 cases.
The royal couple will also be briefed about efforts to protect the Asian Elephants by the local people of Rong Terang village, considered friends of Mark Roland Shand, a renowned travel writer and conservationist.
Shand was the brother of Duchess of Cornwall Camilla and the co-founder of the Foundation of Elephant Family in 2002.