Malena was shot by Italian hunters in Croatia. She’s a stork, and together with her mate, Rodan, was busy raising their young when the “vacationers” intervened and changed everything. That was back in 1993.
The good people who found Malena, not far from her nest, took her to their local veterinarian. He was able to save her life, but she would never fly again.
So Malena took care of the chicks, in and around the nest, while Rodan went out every day to find food for the whole family.
A few months later, as winter began to close in on Croatia, it was time for the whole family to fly south to South Africa for their winter migration. Except that Malena couldn’t go. After some hesitation, Rodan took the chicks and headed out, without his mate, on the long 8,000-mile trip.
The veterinarian told Mr. and Mrs. Vokic, who had rescued Malena, that it was unlikely that Malena could survive long. Storks mate for life, and unable to fly, she’d be most unlikely to find another mate next spring. Still, the Vokics went to her nest every day, all through that cold winter, to feed her and keep an eye on her.
And then, when spring returned, in 1994, so did Rodan. A few weeks later, a new nest of chicks hatched. Come fall, Rodan led the young ones on their first flight to South Africa.
In spring 1995, he returned yet again. Once again, he and Malena raised a family. Every year, he makes the 16,000-mile round trip to be with his beloved. As soon as he arrives, the two settle down together and start a new family.
They say that love conquers all – even, in this case, loveless hunters.