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Animal Parc Planckendael

Photo: E. Brouwers (Aminal)

In 1986 evolved the idea of co-workers of Animal park Planckendael to start with a stork colony. There were several reasons for this.

    • Storks from other countries often visited the region of Mechelen, an indication that Planckendael lies along the flyway of storks from the Netherlands and Germany.
    • The stork is an excellent species to show field characteristics of birds. It is not only a large and conspicuous species, but is most time in the open and well visible. A stork is standing on the look out or is resting on its huge nest or flies and soars in its own impressive way. The well known clattering is an interesting example of communication in the world of animals. And eventually it is difficult to ignore the high historical value the bird has in our society. The stork is a rare bird which is internationally protected and well studied. All in one, is the stork an ideal species to educate people in an animal park that is interested in the protection of nature.
    • The green area near the park, with the wet grasslands and meadows are still a good habitat for the species.
    • Since several years there were already birds in captivity in the park. In 1986 was the breeding success very good, so these birds formed an ideal flock to start up the breeding program.

During the first years of the breeding program had the co-workers of Planckendael to feed a lot of the young storks by hand. Planckendael exchanged at the same time birds with projects in the Netherlands and France. All these grew up in large cages. After 2 or 3 years became it obvious which birds were forming pairs. These birds were put together in a smaller cage. Here they could build there nest and raise their young. Pairs that were successful were released in the next year.

Before the birds were free the Animal park and the surrounding area was prepared for their release. At different places in the park were platforms placed by co-workers of the technical division of Planckendael.

To avoid collisions with the high tension powerlines at the west side of the park, Planckendael and the electricity company Electrabel worked together to make the pylons and wires bird proof. Plastic curls were attached to the wires to make them well visible. The pylons were shielded with metal pins to prevent storks from landing. Along the road next to the park were road signs placed as a warning to drivers to look out for the low flying birds. A biology student of the University of Antwerp made his thesis on a comparative study on the behaviour of the reintroduced and wild storks.


Photo: E. Brouwers (Aminal)

The people living in the neighbourhood of the park got a nice colour leaflet. This leaflet addressed some of the problems that the storks could pose and emphasised the difference of the species with herons, its behaviour, the threats and the aims of the reintroduction. Everybody was informed when the big day was there. In the spring of 1990 were the first pairs released. The birds needed quite some time to get used to the new situation, but after a couple of years the platforms got more and more in use and many young fledged.

The storks in Planckendael get only a limited extra amount of food, most of their menu have the storks to find in the grasslands and meadows in the area around the park. The study of the behaviour of the reintroduced storks showed that the released storks behaved in many ways like wild birds. The walk through the grass and try to pick up any potential prey. Or they look for prey items in the small ponds and wet depressions in the meadows. The storks have a few familiar feeding places and are a very familiar site to the local inhabitants.


Ring and electronic chip

Every year the young storks in the park are ringed.

To collect as much information as possible the storks have to be easily identified. Each stork gets an official metal ring of the Belgian ringing centre (KBIN, Vautierstraat 29, 1000 Brussels) and a large plastic colour ring. The colour ring is easy to read from a large distance and thus each bird can easily be identified. Because the stork nests are placed very high, an old fire truck is used to take the young out of the nest.

An electronic passport

When the birds are ringed the young storks get also an electronic implant, called transponder. This device has an unique number that can be read with specialised equipment.

Photo : Kris Struyf



In 1996 existed the stork project already 10 years. In this period a lot of things have happened. All year long are about 30 birds hanging around the park. In the period May to September these birds are joined by about 20 young storks. In August and September there are sometimes large groups of (Dutch) storks that stop for a short time. When soon after leave they take the young birds from Planckendael with them. The nest building evolved as well. In the beginning of the project there were no pairs breeding on the roof of the restaurant. No this is the most favourite nesting site. Several pairs are now breeding on the roof or in trees close to the castle.

The reintroduction project is in 10 years time evolved to one of the best known projects in Planckendael.