The shoebill was raised by the African Parks management team in the wetlands, and is now flourishing, along with the other estimated 200 shoebills storks in the Bangweulu Wetlands ecosystem.
Contrary to European folklore that the stork brings the baby, a concerned citizen brought the shoebill chick to the Bangweulu Wetlands Project in August last year. Craig and Andrea Reid, managers at Bangweulu, adopted Seymour, and instead of letting him (or her?) grow up thinking he was a human the couple opted to turn themselves into sheet-and-sock wearing shoebill so Seymour could one day fledge the nest as a wild bird.
Seymour had a few ‘test releases’ to stretch his wings and see what life in the wild was all about. According to Andrea Reid, Seymour looked a little out of sorts when he found himself outside his enclosure instead of in it.
The shoebill was released into an area with permanent water and a consistent food source under the watchful eye of the fisheries guards. The fisheries guards regulate fishing activities, quotas and help fishermen understand the fishing regulations of the wetland. Since they were already operating in the swamps, the team decided to use them to monitor Seymour as well. The guards were able to report that the shoebill was happily sustaining itself on catfish, snakes and frogs.
Since Seymour’s release he has been exploring his papyrus domain and has been tracked as far as Ngungwa village 5km away!
Whether it is Seymour of Seymouress remains to be seen, but hopefully the Bangweulu management team will find out when they become grandparents. Until then they can congratulate themselves on their successful shoebill-parenting skills.