Cotswold Wildlife Park Visit

The Cotswold Wildlife Park is an important partner in the White Stork Project, and their work is fundamental to the success of the white stork reintroduction in Britain.

At CWP, there is a captive population of breeding rehabilitated storks, many of which are rehabilitated from previous injuries abroad and can no longer fly.

These storks have been breeding successfully for several years, and the White Stork Project has been able to learn from the successes here. Each summer, storks that fledge at CWP are ringed and brought to Knepp to be released into the wild. These releases are crucial to bolster the number of storks in the UK at a point in time where the wild colony is still getting established. Sadly, as with all migratory birds, white storks have a high mortality rate, particularly in their first year of life.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park visit 2024

Some of the storks released at Knepp but hatched at CWP are overwintering just outside Madrid as of February 2024. At least two others have made it all the way to Morocco. We are often asked whether these storks will return to the UK to breed and if so, whether they will journey to Knepp in Sussex where they were released or up to the Cotswolds where they hatched. The answer as it stands is – time will tell! Storks generally reach breeding age at around 3 or 4 years old, and they tend to travel back to their colony to breed. We are fascinated to learn more about the movement behaviours over the coming years.

To learn from the experts and share ideas, White Stork Project Volunteers have travelled to CWP for a training day for the last couple of years. This year, on a cold but beautiful Friday in January, 15 of the volunteers alongside the Project Officer, Laura, took a trip over to the Cotswolds for a wonderful day of collaboration.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park Training Day

The day started with a view of stork feeding with Richard Wardle (Deputy Head of Primates and Bird Department) and discussions with Issy Wright (Waterfowl Keeper) and Bethan Peacock (Conservation/Education Officer) about general husbandry.

Richard proceeded to give us a hugely informative and very interesting talk on stork husbandry and breeding behaviours. Jamie Craig (Curator at CWP) provided valuable insights and led a general discussion on all aspects of the project which was extremely useful for everyone, and we all came away feeling like we had learnt a lot.

At Cotswold Wildlife Park, many stork pairs are nesting on the ground (as their previous injuries mean they are not able to fly into the trees to build their nest). At Knepp, there are around 25 flightless birds in a large open-topped enclosure, some of which bred for the first time using ground nests in 2023. It was extremely helpful to listen to the experiences from the team at CWP about ground nesting success, to consider what can be applied to Knepp. At Knepp there is a mixture of free flying birds which generally choose to nest in ancient oak trees, and the non-flying birds which are kept safe from predators in their enclosure. The hope is that the non-flying birds will breed more over the coming years. Storks can live for up to 30 years and are able to reproduce from around 3 or 4 years old throughout their whole lives, so we have hopes for there being more ground nests in years to come.

It was particularly useful to have a reminder about how nesting material needs to be high quality, varied, abundant and available from very early spring onwards. This point was driven home particularly hard as on our return to Knepp and over the weekend, one of our largest nests had blown down due to Storm Isha. However, this has happened to this particular pair of storks before and in the past, they managed to rebuild the bulk of the nest in around a week.

After the talks and discussions, the volunteers from Knepp were given a lovely tour of the Park. Highlights included meeting the baby rhinos, feeding the giraffes and getting up close to the penguins. We had a truly wonderful day. Some feedback from the volunteers included these comments from Malcolm and Bec:

‘It was a perfect day and great to see how and where the Cotswold baby storks are born and raised. Thanks to Reggie and his wonderful team for showing us around. I appreciated their knowledge, passion and dedication which was so infectious. It was a great lunch too, that was very generous and delicious.’ – Malcolm

‘Really appreciated how much trouble Reggie and all of the staff went to – felt like we were treated like VIPs. I learned so much.’ – Bec

It was a pleasure to visit CWP again and we look forward to returning in the future and continuing to collaborate with the team there.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park Training day 2

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