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Animal lovers Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall make furry friends

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They already cosied up to some cute koalas in Australia and now Prince Charles and Camilla have found some new furry friends in New Zealand. The Prince of Wales and his wife, who are now in the latter stages of their tour to Australasia, visited a wildlife centre in Palmerston North, where they got up close and personal with some of the residents.

The royal couple proved a hit both with the crowds of supporters who came to greet them and the dogs, donkeys and horses at the centre. The Duchess, who is particularly fond of horses, was seen stroking some young ponies just a week after attending Australia's famous horse race, The Melbourne Cup.

Camilla also helped handle a recovering kiwi bird, a well-recognised symbol of her host country, before enjoying some of the local delicacies on offer at the market. The 65-year-old was given a 'Tater Curly', a specially styled fried potato, to try. As a well-known foodie, its an offer she will surely have appreciated. Meanwhile Charles was busy as the market's sheep shearing stand.

For the second time during the two-week-tour the Prince was shown the process, which produces one of the continent's biggest exports, wool. Whilst in Tasmania Charles turned his hand to 'fleece throwing', the post-shearing collecting method, under the guidance of expert Lucy Byers who said he was "quite good for a beginner."

The visit followed his 64th birthday celebrations which took place on Wednesday. The Queen's son, who is know to be a huge fan of the JRR Tolkein novel The Hobbit, was treated to a tour of the New Zealand movie studio where director Peter Jackson shot much of his cinematic adaptation.

Actor Mark Hadlow, made the Prince's day extra special, when he dropped down on one knee, resting his hands on his sword, and said in a booming voice that he had been released by Peter "for you to command as you see fit, your servant Dori."

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A delighted Charles broke into a wide grin and laughed: "this is the best birthday present I've had for a long time." The birthday celebrations had begun earlier in the day when he and the Duchess were joined by 64 Kiwis who share the Prince's November 14 birthday.

After their day at the wildlife centre and market, Charles and his wife attended a reception at Government House, in the capital city of Wellington, for New Zealand's science and conservation community. On Thursday the duo are due to visit the South Island city of Christchurch which was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2011. The couple will meet with those who are rebuilding their lives before flying back to the UK on Friday.

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