Croatian storks' 'love story' goes the distance

Two lovebird storks celebrated their 12th anniversary on Monday as the male made his annual journey of thousands of miles to join his handicapped female in Croatia.

Ever-faithful Klepetan flew some 13,500 kilometres (8,370 miles) from his winter home in South Africa to join Malena, who cannot fly because she has a broken wing.

"He woke me up .... This year he came 12 hours earlier than usual," Stjepan Vokic, who takes care of Malena, told the Jutarnji List daily.

The retired primary school caretaker, who lives in the village of Brodski Varos in eastern Croatia, adopted the female stork 20 years ago after hunters broke her wing.

The stork couple has raised offspring every year for the past 11 years of their long-distance relationship.

The baby birds are taught to fly by their father, before they migrate to South Africa for the winter.

Meanwhile Malena, whose name means Little One in Croatia, stays in the village to await the return of her beloved Klepetan next spring.