Young cranes are prepared for the wild in Somerset

A group of cranes which were hatched at a nature reserve in Gloucestershire have reached the final stage before they are released into the wild.

They were brought over as eggs from Germany to the Slimbridge reserve in April as part of a project to reintroduce cranes to the UK.

The birds, aged between 12-14 weeks, were released to a temporary enclosure on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

They should acclimatise before their release into the wild in the autumn.

The 21 cranes, which have been temporarily released, have been fitted with tracking devices including small GPS satellite tracking backpacks.

This will enable staff at the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge to monitor them.

Nigel Jarrett, from the WWT, said: "It's an emotional day for us but we know that this is what it's always been about - putting back birds that belong in this country.

Crane costumes

"It is incredible to think that by autumn we could be seeing a flock of wild cranes in the west country for the first time in 400 years."

Staff who reared the young birds even had to wear crane costumes so the birds did not become "imprinted on humans".

The Great Crane Project wants to restore wild common cranes to the UK wetlands. It was lost as a breeding bird 400 years ago after their nesting sites were drained.

The project hopes to have released 100 birds by 2015.

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