Love was literally in the air at Woburn Safari Park when an animal keeper received a marriage proposal with the help of a cheeky cockatoo!
Charlie Simpson, 27, was absolutely stunned over the bank holiday weekend by the unique proposal from her partner of five years as one of Woburn’s bird displays was taking place.
John Stirling, also 27, had spent the last few weeks working in cahoots with the other animal keepers, who secretly trained Charlie’s favourite bird, a lesser crested sulphur cockatoo named Zoe, to carry a ring to present to her as part of the proposal.
The team had been working hard to keep the secret for nearly a month, since plans for the proposal were first made at another colleague’s wedding.
Charlie did not suspect a thing as Zoe swooped in and dropped the ring into the bowl in front of her. She didn’t realise it was a marriage proposal until her partner John was announced as a special guest with a big question for her by keeper Louise Moody, whilst the crowd cheered him on.
John got down on one knee and Charlie went to pieces and said yes, then hugged him and started crying.
The groom-to-be was extremely nervous before the big proposal and said: “I always knew that I wanted to do something with the parrots, as it was always going to be a definite way to get her to say yes! I have been planning this for at least a year. Not telling her and trying to keep all of her friends and family quiet has been the hardest challenge of my life.”
Charlie, from Milton Keynes, was absolutely thrilled. Surrounded by her family afterwards she said: “This is insane, I can’t get my head around it. I felt like, is this a dream? I didn’t even have an inkling.”
Charlie has worked at Woburn for three years and has worked with birds since going to college, with Zoe a special favourite of hers.
Zoe has been trained by Woburn’s keepers to bring materials to her nest, with keepers swapping sticks and twigs for an engagement ring, until she was comfortable carrying it in her beak.
The Animal Encounters keepers gathered round to congratulate her and toast the happy couple with champagne, along with her close family. They said they were glad they didn’t have to keep the secret any longer, and they all agreed it was a nightmare keeping anything from her!
Zoe, Charlie’s favourite parrot, is one of the stars of Woburn’s Birds in Action parrot show, where the crowd is wowed by giant macaws and cheeky cockatoos like Zoe, free flying above the audience and demonstrating their natural behaviours, while keepers educate the audience about the plight of wild parrots and threats to their populations.