The Stork Kajtka with the GPS locator that an NGO installed in April 2017
The Stork Kajtka with the GPS locator that an NGO installed in April 2017

The environmental NGO Grupa EkoLogiczna hoped that Kajtek, a white stork who installed a GPS locator in 2017, would return this year to Poland with spring; but he did not. In its place came a telephone bill of more than 10,000 zlotys (about $ 2,700) that they will now have to pay.

The charity had attached a GPS tracking transmitter with a SIM card to the back of the stork in April 2017. Thanks to the device they were able to observe the places where Kajtek was feeding and the route that followed to Africa in winter. In the same way they intended to continue their journey back to Europe, but something went wrong.

According to the charity’s Facebook account, the stork started the return on February 1, 2018 and arrived in the Blue Nile Valley, in Sudan, ten days later. Then, and for unknown reasons, Kajtek began to move erratically on journeys of 25 kilometers per day. On April 26, Grupa EkoLogiczna received the last GPS signal.

It was not until June 7 that a bulky telephone bill clarified what happened. Someone had removed the SIM card from the transmitter and used it to talk on the phone: up to 20 hours of calls that generated a debt of more than 10,000 Polish Sotis, or 2,700 US dollars. A Grupa EkoLogiczna will have no choice but to pay it.

According to the BBC, the marking of storks plays an important role in the conservation of these migratory birds. Environmentalists share GPS locator data with scientists to assess their habits, their social behavior and their potential threats. While the white stork is not in danger of extinction, industrialization and the drainage of wetlands almost wiped it off the map fifty years ago.

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