A male stork has redefined going the distance for the one you love. The bird has traveled more than 8,000 miles to visit his female mate every spring for the last 16 years.
Stjepan Vokic, a custodian in Croatia, found a female stork with an injured wing while out fishing in 1993. He told Agence-France Presse it appeared she had been shot by hunters and could no longer fly, so he took her in.
He soon discovered that each year at the same time, the stork, who he named Malena, would get a special visitor — her partner, who he calls Klepetan. Klepetan flies in all the way from South Africa to see his true love and mate.
Klepetan wears a tracking ring that determined when he's not with Malena he's living near Cape Town, according to AFP.
Malena and Vokic spend the winters watching stork documentaries indoors, and when spring is near, Vokic builds a nest for Malena that can house her and her baby storks. He completes the nest with a cover to protect her youngsters, as she can no longer spread her wings to keep them sheltered from the rain. Klepetan then arrives to keep her company.
“A man grows together with his pet; as a result, she is constantly on my mind...I raised my children and I want her to raise hers,” Vokic said in an interview with Croatian Radiotelevision HRT.
Klepetan has now returned to his partner each spring for the last 16 years, spending two months with her until the young storks are ready to fly back to Africa, where he too returns until the next spring.
Saying goodbye to her love seems difficult for Malena each time, Vokic said.
"She won't eat and then the poor thing hides; it's almost as if she were saying to him 'Go, go—I can't,'" Vokic said in the video interview with HRT. "It is unbelievable," he said of the duo's bond.
Croatia is a popular location for stork couples; a total of 1,500 pairs reside in the country, according to AFP.
In villages like Cigoc, for example, which was dubbed the “first European Stork Village,” some 210 storks are known to nest on rooftops. That's twice the amount of people living in the village, according to AFP.