If you look closely enough, you will discover that the lives of animals in nature are pretty extraordinary, unlike how we sometimes imagine them to be. Look no further than your own backyard—or the birds on your rooftop, perhaps.
Some 25 years ago, Stjepan Vokić from the small village of Slavonski in Croatia stumbled on a wounded stork that had been shot by hunters and could no longer fly. He adopted her, took care of her, and even built a nest for her on his own rooftop. He named her Malena.
Five years passed, then a remarkable thing happened: a male stork landed in Malena’s nest one day, after making the long migration from Africa, and became her mate. Even though she could not fly, they became bonded for life. Vokić named the male stork Klepetan.
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During the spring and summer months, the two storks are inseparable. But at the end of every August, Klepetan leaves their cozy rooftop nest and makes the incredible 8,000-mile migration journey south, to the much warmer climate of South Africa.
Malena, unable to make the journey herself, mourns for her mate for 10 days, according to Vokić. Until finally, she accepts that he is gone. She stays with Vokić indoors during the fall and winter months, as storks are unable to live out in the cold.
#ICYMI: The love story of Malena and Klepetan — the female stork who can’t fly and her beau who returns each spring, migrating some 14,500 kilometres.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 15, 2018
Yet remarkably, for the past two decades, Klepetan has returned to Malena’s nest each year in late March and reunites with his mate after eight months apart. As you can see from the footage below, it’s a reunion worth celebrating.
Clearly, Klepetan brings meaning to the wounded female stork’s life, who spends much of the year isolated from her species, indoors. Vokić even calls Klepetan his fourth “son.” His storks are all he has to live for, he says.
Which has led Vokić to advocate for curtailing the hunting of storks along their migration routes through countries such as Lebanon. He fears that one day, Klepetan will not return again.
In fact, the pair of storks have become quite famous in his home town for their epic love story. Indeed, millions of Croatians tune in each year to watch for the male stork’s much-anticipated return via livestream.
Watch the beautiful reunion of the two storks below:
Vokić tells local media Total Croatia News that he’s certain that it’s Klepetan who is returning each year (and not some other stork) because he always seeks out the same bucket of fish that Vokić leaves out for him in anticipation of his yearly arrival.
Over the years, the two storks have raised over 40 baby storks together in their nest. Vokić helps to feed them, as Malena is unable to hunt for food.
May they continue to reunite each and every year and remain a happy family, man and storks, for the rest of their years.