Meet Klepetan: The Stork Who Flies 8000 Miles From South Africa to Croatia Each Year to Visit His Love

Two adult storks in a nest
Two adult storks in a nest / Bozidar Acimov/iStock via Getty Images

A stork is proving that long-distance relationships can work. Klepetan, a South African male stork, flies over 8000 miles each year to spend time with his avian lady love. As far as those involved with the story can tell, the two have been in this relationship for at least 16 years.

As Travel + Leisure relates, the female stork—Malena—was found injured by a pond after being shot by a hunter. A Croatian janitor, Stjepan Vokić, took her under his (figurative) wing in order to nurse her back to health. “If I had left her in the pond foxes would have eaten her,” Vokić says. “But I changed her fate, so now I’m responsible for her life.”

It was while under his care that Vokić noticed a male suitor would drop by to see Malena around the same time each year. Vokić named him “Klepetan” for the knocking sound the birds make with their beaks. Klepetan and Malena are anomalies in the stork world, as the species doesn’t necessarily mate for life. It’s an annual occasion so special that Vokić even prepares a welcome bucket of fish to celebrate Klepetan’s arrival.

Thanks to a tracking ring, the winged Romeo’s location has been pegged as somewhere near Cape Town when he’s not spending time with Malena. The journey itself is about a month long, proving his dedication when it comes to reuniting with the missus and their brood.

However, there is some concern that the lovebirds' story may have reached an end. The stork that visited Malena in March of this year may not be Klepetan. According to a Facebook post made by Vokić’s son Dario in a closed group devoted to the pair, “The real Klepetan probably didn’t arrive. The current stork is acting weird, he came for a meal and then he [left] for two days.” This is very atypical for Klepetan, as he and Malena are purportedly “inseparable” during his stay.

As of press time, there was no reported confirmation of Klepetan's 2019 arrival. Some fear that the stork may have died of old age. "This is the law of nature. Klepetan did his part. I noticed him being very tired last year, when the time of migration arrived,” Vokić told the Croatia Times.

Still, that doesn't mean you can't be inspired by their stork's commitment. For more information, watch this animated video detailing the history of their love story.