This video says about itself:
26 April 2017
Dear President Aoun,
My name is Stjepan Vokić. People would describe me in a multitude of different ways, but all of them would agree with one thing – that I am a man who loves animals more than I love myself. And they would be right.
Twenty-five years ago, in my little village in my little homeland Croatia, I found a small stork with a wound in her wing – she had been shot by hunters. It was immediately evident that she would not be able to fly ever again which for a migratory bird means death.
I took her home with the hope of helping her in some way. I built a nest on the roof and a winter habitation in the garage so that she could survive the cold winter days. I named her Malena (The Little One).
Since Malena cannot fly, I have been her wings… I have caught fish for her, I have collected branches for her nest and helped her survive long winters. Over the years of friendship with Malena, I have learned numerous facts about storks and realized how magnificent those creatures are. Fifteen years ago, in the springtime, while returning from Africa, a male stork Klepetan landed in her nest. Ever since that day, he and Malena have been inseparable and up to this day, 59 young storks have set off into the world from their nest.
With the approach of autumn, Klepetan travels to south Africa to winter there, but at the end of March he returns back to his Malena in Croatia. This has been a regular occurrence for fifteen years already.
His 14000 kilometre journey teems with danger and these ten days while we wait for him impatiently are the most tense moments of my life.
However, when Klepetan appears in our back yard and flies to the bucket filled with fish I prepared for him, there is no money or wealth that could replace happiness and joy that fill my heart. I have three sons, and ever since Klepetan landed in Malena’s nest I accepted him as my fourth son.
The thought that one spring he may not return scares me more than anything. Although during his journey, storms, hunger and thirst threaten him, the most dangerous part of the flight is the 200 kilometre long route over your Lebanon. Every year around two million migratory birds get killed in this air route… some for fun, some for food, some for sale. This year Klepetan’s friend from the flock, Tesla, had an ill-fortune and got hurt. The stork Tesla was one of the two Croatian storks tracked by a GPS device for scientific research within the project “SOS Stork Croatia” which aims to determine the exact movement routes of the migratory birds of our area.
Just like the previous fifteen autumns, Klepetan will commence his journey to Africa and will once more fly over Lebanon. Unfortunately, I cannot go with him to protect him, but I am sending you this letter written with his feather, in order to implore you, to use the power your esteemed position brings and do everything you can in order to ensure that migratory bird protection laws remain in effect and that they are applied to their fullest extent. I am also sending you Klepetan’s feather because I believe that the feather is mightier than the sword.
I hope that you will use this particular feather, even before Klepetan flies to the south, to sign the law which will make a difference and save these wonderful creatures from merciless killing.
In my country, there is a belief that storks bring children and that they bring new life. These two storks are my whole life. You do not have to believe in stories for little children, but you can believe in the fact that in Croatia every spring, via live stream camera, over a million people await Klepetan’s return and that the moment of his return brings happiness and joy reminding many of what love means and what it means to love.
The story of my Klepetan is a proof to everyone that love simply knows no boundaries. I do not believe in fairy tales, but I do believe in goodness and I do believe that nature remembers and gives back everything, and more than anything, I believe in your humaneness and your benevolence and I thank you for your attention to this matter.
Malena, Klepetan and Stjepan Vokić
9 May 2017
Migration: A long-distance love story
For the past 15 years, a lovestruck stork has faithfully returned from its South Africa wintering grounds to the same rooftop in Croatia, where he is dramatically reunited with his disabled amore. It’s a love story that has captivated a nation – but every time he departs, there are fears that he will not survive to see his beloved next spring.
You could set your clock to Klepetan. Over a million people watching via live stream already have. Every year, for the past 15 years, Klepetan, a male White Stork Ciconia ciconia returns to the same red-tiled rooftop in Brodski Varoš, a small Croatian village near the Bosnian border.
Except last year, Klepetan was late. Six days late. Normally, he returns on March 24th, give or take a day, but it was now March 30th, and his partner, Malena, was casting a lonely figure as she waited patiently for her beau to return.
But then, at 4:40pm, Klepetan dramatically swooped into view of the livefeed camera, reuniting the two lovebirds after months apart and sending the nation into rapturous joy.
But what is it about this particular pair of storks that resonates with the Croatian public above all others? Perhaps it’s because their relationship has to endure something that most lovers will be familiar with at one point or another in their lives – long distance.
Klepetan, you see, has to make the long, arduous 5,000 mile trip to South Africa alone every winter. Malena was illegally shot in 1993, and hasn’t flown properly since. Luckily for her, she was discovered at the side of the road by a school janitor, Stjepan Vokic, who treated her wounds and has looked after her ever since – building a makeshift nest on the roof of his house for her, and providing shelter for her during the cold winter months.
It was while she was enjoying the roof nest one day 15 years ago that she was spotted and wooed by Klepetan, and the pair have been inseparable since. (Most of the year, anyway.) Over the years, the lovers have reared dozens of chicks.
But come the winter, Klepetan flies south to Africa with the other storks, leaving his flightless partner behind. When the birds return in the spring, Vokic, and the hundreds of thousands of people glued to the livestream, face an anxious wait to see if Klepetan has survived his perilous journeys. Migratory birds brave numerous threats every time they embark on their epic travels – from storms to starvation, predators to power lines. But there’s one particular stretch of Klepetan’s journey that has his supporters particularly concerned – a 100 mile stretch that takes Klepetan over Lebanon.
The African-Eurasian Flyway – one of the most important migratory routes in the entire world – runs straight through Lebanon, and it is here that the journey ends for around 2.6 million birds as they are felled from the sky by irresponsible hunters.
As one of the larger migratory birds, storks are an obvious target for poachers, and this year the issue of Klepetan’s safety is particularly poignant, with the news that a male stork called Tesla – one of two Croat storks fitted with GPS trackers for research purposes – met his end in Lebanon this past April.
Vokic is so concerned about Klepetan’s welfare that he has taken the extraordinary step of writing a letter to the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun – using a pen fashioned from one of Klepetan’s own feathers – a symbolic gesture that the feather is mightier than the sword. The heartfelt letter … was delivered to Aoun in a box containing the very same feather – which Vokic urges Aoun should use to pen a law offering stronger protection for birds during the critical migration seasons.
An excerpt from the letter says: “In my country, there is a belief that storks bring children and that they bring new life. These two storks are my whole life. You do not have to believe in stories for little children, but you can believe in the fact that in Croatia every spring, via live stream camera, over a million people await Klepetan’s return and that the moment of his return brings happiness and joy reminding many of what love means and what it means to love.“
It follows a letter by BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita, addressed to Claudine Aoun Roukoz, the president’s special advisor, thanking Aoun for his commitment and urging for closer collaboration with the BirdLife Partnership on this matter.
Fortunately, there is every chance that Vokic’s emotional plea will tug at Aoun’s heartstrings – just last month, the Lebanese Prime Minister himself pledged to stop the annual slaughter in his country, stating that: “There should be a peace treaty between Man and the tree as well as Man and birds, because we continue to transgress upon them”.
But any action by Aoun needs to be swift and decisive and followed with action on the ground. It is only a matter of months until Klepetan will begin eyeing the long journey south once more. For the lovestruck stork who returns to his partner’s nest every year like clockwork, the clock is ticking.
UPDATE February 2018: here.