Twenty eight Storks bred at an Oxfordshire wildlife park have taken flight in one of the UK's most ambitious rewilding programmes.

For the fourth year running, Cotswold Wildlife Park has successfully bred chicks for the pioneering scheme called The White Stork Project, which aims to restore Stork populations to Britain - a sight not seen since the 15th century.

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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.

A total of 24 adult pairs live in a large netted enclosure at the wildlife park in Burford, where they are given the highest standard of care to facilitate successful breeding.

Eight chicks hatched in 2018, 24 were successfully raised and released in 2019 and in 2020, despite challenging weather, the birds still managed to rear 21 chicks.

This year’s chicks hatched in May and to maximise their chance of survival, the husbandry team at the park 'assist' fed the chicks on the nest.

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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.

At the end of July, they were transferred to Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex and in this month, the Storks were release into the wild – a momentous moment for the entire team.

Jamie Craig, curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, said: “It is always extremely rewarding to take our White Stork chicks to the Knepp Estate ready for release. After months of dedicated care from the Stork team at the Park to get the youngsters to this point, the actual day of release when the acclimatisation pen is opened never loses its magic.

"We are delighted that we now have the fourth year of Cotswold bred Storks exploring the sky around Sussex, before hopefully heading off on their marathon migration."

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The White Stork Project monitors tagged birds via their fitted GPS tracking system but also relies on sightings reported to their website by members of the public to keep track on both tagged and untagged Storks.

Thanks to the dedication of an ever-growing army of Stork fans across Europe and Africa, they recently received encouraging news about one of the first Storks released into the wild back in 2018 – a female named Marge who was bred at Cotswold Wildlife Park.

The White Stork Project aims to have at least 50 breeding pairs across the south of England by 2030. To find out more, go to

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