This solitary and elusive Shoebill Stork lives in wetlands in very small pockets around Eastern Africa. Their stealthy movements enable them to stalk and lunge at potential meals of lungfish. Standing at up to 5ft high and with somewhat menacing looks, this bird sure can intimidate! But when personally becoming acquainted with one, as I did this one while sitting next to his bucket of fish inside his enclosure, they are incredibly gentle and endearing characters.
Although this rare bird is called a stork, genetically they have more in common with pelicans and herons. With an imposing beak that ends with a sharp hook, these ambush predators can certainly take a large chunk of fish fillet to go. They are primarily solitary birds, doing what they do best alone unless mating or caring for their young. They exude a no-fuss attitude, with their silent nature, slow and measured steps, and a powerful sense of calm.
I love all animals equally, but a soft spot has definitely been reserved for the Shoebill Stork. Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, they are at a high risk of becoming critically endangered due to continued hunting and habitat loss.