Klepetan and Malena

Klepetan and Malena were two white storks (Ciconia ciconia) who rose to fame in Croatia for their romantic exploits. Klepetan travelled from South Africa to Brodski Varo, Croatia, each spring between 2001 and 2021 to mate with Malena, who was unable to travel due to a gunshot injury. Malena died on July 7, 2021, of old age and natural causes, leaving only Klepetan alive.

Story of Klepetan

Croatia is a popular nesting location for white storks; the country has approximately 1,500 nesting pairs, with some villages having more storks than people.  Stjepan Voki, a Croatian janitor, discovered Malena while fishing in 1993; she had been shot by hunters and was unable to fly. Voki rescued Malena and took care of her. In 2001, a male stork named Klepetan by Voki began to visit Malena. Every spring, Klepetan returned to mate with Malena.

Klepetan made a 13,000-kilometer (8,000-mile) month-long journey from South Africa to Croatia to meet up with Malena each year, according to a radio tracking band. Since Malena was unable to hunt, Voki took care of their chicks by building a nest, providing shelter, and feeding them. Klepetan returned in 2017 to discover another bird and a newly laid egg in Malena’s nest. Klepetan drove the male away and smashed his competitor’s egg. The couple had a total of 66 chicks.

In March 2019, a bird that could have been a Klepetan arrived at Brodski Varo unusually early. He left in April and did not return during the summer. Klepetan was reported to have died in August 2019, but it turned out to be a different stork. Despite rumours of his death, Klepetan returned to Malena in April 2020.  Klepetan made his final appearance in April 2021.

Death of Malena

Malena died of old age on July 7, 2021. Stjepan Voki announced her death. Voki had been caring for her for 28 years at the time of her death. At the time of her death, she was accompanied by Klepetan. Despite the death of his companion, Voki expressed hope that Klepetan would return to his house in 2022.

In society

A documentary about storks and Voki was released in 2017. To promote Croatia, the Croatian tourism board created an animated video of Klepetan and Malena. The storks were the subject of a video, which led to Lebanon enacting migratory bird protections. The couple has been dubbed “Croatia’s most unusual love story.”

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