Storks bred at Cotswold Wildlife Park have taken flight as part of an ambitious rewilding programme.

For the third year running, the park has successfully bred chicks for the scheme which aims to restore wild stork populations to Britain – a sight not seen since the 15th century.

It is the first stork rewilding programme of its kind in the UK.

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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.

Twenty four adult pairs live in a large netted enclosure at the park, eight chicks hatched in 2018 and last year 24 were successfully raised and released.

Oxford Mail:

Despite a challenging start to the year weather-wise (including the wettest February on record in the UK and three severe storms in just one month), this year the birds still managed to rear 21 chicks.

The 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.

In August, they were transferred to Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex for release into the wild.

Jamie Craig, curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, said: “It is an honour for the Park to be involved in such a fantastic project, releasing these birds into the stunning surroundings at Knepp and watching them soar on the thermals gives an enormous sense of pride and achievement for all involved."