WHITE STORKS TAKING FLIGHT
Reconnecting with a wilder Britain
reconnecting PEOPLE AND LANDSCAPES
A group of private landowners and nature conservation organisations are working together to help the white stork return home to South East England for the first time in several hundred years.
These large birds, symbolic of rebirth, are native to the British Isles and evidence suggests that they were once widely distributed. Whilst it is unclear why this spectacular and sociable bird failed to survive in Britain, it is likely that a combination of habitat loss, over-hunting and targeted persecution all contributed to their decline. A contributory factor may be that it was persecuted in the English Civil War for being associated with rebellion. The white stork is a migratory bird species, and there have been many sightings in the UK over recent years, but conservationists identified that the species would need a helping hand to re-establish a breeding population in Britain.
The White Stork Project is led by a pioneering partnership of private landowners and nature conservation organisations, who are working together to restore a population of at least 50 breeding pairs in southern England by 2030 through a phased release programme over the next five years.
At least 250 white storks will be released at several sites in Sussex and surrounding counties. Initial releases aimed at establishing local breeding populations, as seen for the first time at Knepp this year, have already been undertaken and will be supplemented in late summer each year by the release of captive-bred juvenile storks reared at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
In a time of increasing disengagement with nature in the UK, bringing back white storks could be a means by which we can reignite our affection for the natural world and it could act as an emblem for environmental restoration.