White Storks go wild

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Twenty one Storks bred at Cotswold Wildlife Park have taken
flight in one of the UK’s most ambitious rewilding programmes –
The White Stork Project. For the third year running, the Park have
successfully bred chicks for this pioneering scheme which aims to
restore wild Stork populations to Britain – a sight not seen
since the 15th century. It is the first Stork rewilding programme
of its kind in the UK.

The team at Cotswold Wildlife Park, together with the Roy Dennis
Wildlife Foundation, are responsible for the captive management
aspect of the project and bred the youngsters from a captive
population received from rehabilitation centres in Poland. Twenty
four adult pairs live in a large netted enclosure at the Park where
they are given the highest standard of care to facilitate
successful breeding. Eight chicks hatched in 2018 and last year 24
were successfully raised and released. Despite an incredibly
challenging start to the year weather-wise (including the wettest
February on record in the UK and three severe storms in just one
month – far from ideal incubation and rearing conditions), this
year the birds still managed to rear 21 chicks.

The chicks hatched in May and to maximise their chance of
survival, the husbandry team at the Park “assist†fed the
chicks on the nest (pictured above). Once fully fledged and
separated from the adults, the birds were weighed, sexed,
microchipped and fitted with highly visible leg rings to make them
easily identifiable after their release. In August, they were
transferred to Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex for release into
the wild – a momentous moment for the entire team.

Jamie Craig (pictured right), Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park,
said: “It is an honour for the Park to be involved in such a
fantastic project, releasing these birds into the stunning
surroundings at Knepp and watching them soar on the thermals gives
an enormous sense of pride and achievement for all involvedâ€.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are tracking
these White Storks in a bid to find out about migratory habits that
disappeared more than 600 years ago. These birds are providing
valuable data that will enable the researchers to gain insights
into the life and migratory choices of the reintroduced Storks.
Previously unpublished data from the 2019 trial reveals that many
of the Storks spent the winter in Southern Europe and Northern
Africa, where they have adapted to take advantage of new food
resources and gather in large numbers. GPS trackers were fitted to
eight of the Storks released this year. Last month they embarked on
their first migratory journey and several of the youngsters have
crossed the channel and are making their way south. Latest tracking
data received on 14 October 2020 reveals that two juveniles have
crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into Morocco.

The White Stork Project aims to have at least 50 breeding pairs
across the south of England by 2030. To find out more about The
White Stork Project, please visit:
https://www.whitestorkproject.org.

Source: FS – Zoo Borns
White Storks go wild