Love is in the air (literally!) at Woburn Safari Park

Animal Keeper Charlie Simpson (27) was absolutely stunned by a marriage proposal from partner of five years, John Stirling (27) during one of the daily birds in action talks at the Park on Sunday 6th May.

John worked in cahoots with the other animal keepers at the park and the team secretly trained Charlie’s favourite bird,– a lesser crested sulphur cockatoo named Zoe, to carry a ring to present to her.

Charlie And Fiancé At Wsp

The team had been working hard to keep the secret for nearly a month, since beginning to plan at another colleague's wedding. John was extremely nervous beforehand and said: “I know by bringing Zoe into the equation, I’m increasing the odds of her saying yes!”

Charlie wasn’t expecting a thing – Zoe brought the ring to Charlie on cue, and it was dropped into the bowl in front of her.  She didn’t realise until her partner John was announced as a special guest with a BIG question for her, by keeper Louise Moody and she began to realise as 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. 

Charlie has worked at Woburn for three years and has worked with birds since going to college, with Zoe as a special favourite of hers. Zoe has been training to bring materials to her nest, to mimic nesting materials, with keepers swapping sticks and twigs for an engagement ring, until she was comfortable carrying it in her beak.

Charlie was absolutely thrilled, surrounded by her family afterwards she said: “This is insane, I can’t get my head around it.”

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, as it was 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.