Above: Promising signs: a pair of white storks have been seen building a nest in an oak tree at the Knepp Estate

 

A PROGRAMME TO help white storks breed once more in southern England has had its first signs of success – with a pair building a nest in West Sussex.

Run by a group of conservation organisations including the Knepp Estate, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Cotswold Wildlife Park (CWP) and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, the White Stork Project aims to restore a population of at least 50 breeding pairs by 2030 through a phased-release programme over the next five years.

Recently, a pair of storks have been sighted nesting in an oak tree on the Knepp Estate. If the chicks fledge, this will be the first successful breeding in southern England since 1651.

Charlie Burrell, owner of the Knepp Estate, said: “We are thrilled to see these wonderful birds starting to nest in Sussex once again.”

White storks were once widely distributed across the UK, but it is unclear exactly why this species failed to survive in Britain. Conservationists believe that a combination of habitat loss, over-hunting and persecution all contributed to the species’ decline.

As part of the White Stork Project, at least 250 white storks will be released at several sites in Sussex and surrounding counties. Initial releases aimed at establishing local breeding populations have already been undertaken and will be supplemented in late summer each year by the release of captive-bred juvenile storks reared at CWP.

The park’s curator Jamie Craig commented: “We are delighted to be able to assist this project that hopefully will once again see white storks breeding in the UK. The rehabilitated storks we have kept at the park as breeding birds for the project have so far surpassed expectations.

Despite their age and inexperience, they are breeding well and we hope to have the next generation ready for release later in the year.”

For more information about the white storks at Knepp Estate, visit: https://knepp.co.uk/white-storks

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