BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is saddened to announce the death of Paco, a blue and gold macaw, one of the zoo’s most well-known and beloved Animal Ambassadors. Paco passed away on Thanksgiving morning after complications from surgery to remove a tracheal obstruction.
“Paco came to the Zoo in the 1980s and was, in fact, the first Animal Ambassador in our ZooMobile Outreach program,” said Jane Ballentine, director of public relations and marketing for the Zoo. “We now have over 70 Animal Ambassadors in our program, but Paco was certainly one of the most visible of all. He will be missed by staff, volunteers and anyone who ever met him during a school program.”
During his time at the Zoo, Paco visited thousands of school children and spent many hours on grounds greeting visitors.
“Paco was a very vocal bird and yes, he was loud! But he endeared himself to his keepers and handlers, and without him the Animal Embassy is very quiet,” said Amy Eveleth, animal embassy collections manager. “He was such a large part of this program and we all miss him very much.”
Blue and gold macaws (Ara ararauna) are one of the largest of the parrot species, most easily recognized by their brilliant coloration. The back and upper tail feathers are bright blue while the underside of the tail is olive yellow. The forehead feathers are green. The wing feathers are blue with green tips, and the under wing coverts and breast are yellow-orange. They are commonly found throughout Mexico, as well as Central America and through Central South America, living in rainforests — high in trees especially along swamps and rivers.
Last week, Paco was brought to the zoo hospital with severe respiratory distress.
“We treated him on Wednesday with oxygen and supportive care,” stated Dr. Ellen Bronson, head veterinarian. “Due to his advanced age, we did not want to rush into any surgical procedures without proper diagnoses. We checked on him several times during the night, however he was slightly worse on Thanksgiving morning.”
Paco was anesthetized and an endoscope was passed into his trachea, where veterinarians found a large mass of tissue completely occluding his airway. Veterinarians were able to remove the mass, but unfortunately he went into cardiac arrest as he was recovering from anesthesia.
“Despite 15 minutes of resuscitation, we were not able to get him back,” said Bronson.
Paco was estimated to be 50-years-old at the time of his death. He came to the zoo in 1984.