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You will be missed, Gomez.

We are so saddened to share that our 30-year-old male wrinkled hornbill Gomez unexpectedly passed away recently.   

After noticing Gomez’s sudden weight loss and lethargy, his animal care team immediately brought in our veterinary team for a thorough exam including bloodwork and x-rays. While we waited for the results of these tests, Gomez was started on an antibiotic, but his condition began to worsen. He was brought back to our L3 Harris Animal Care Center for more treatment, but he unfortunately went into pulmonary arrest and was not able to be resuscitated. Results of his earlier testing showed that Gomez was in severe kidney failure.  

While every animal passing is difficult for our Zoo, this one is especially difficult. Gomez spent two decades at our Zoo. He was one of the oldest members of their species – the median lifespan of which is 10.6 years for females – in a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  

Gomez and his lifelong partner, 30-year-old Morticia, have had over five offspring with us – and they even have grand-chicks at fellow AZA-accredited facilities. 

“I had the pleasure of meeting Gomez about 5 years ago as an intern,” shared Lands of Change keeper Alyssa Padmos. “He took a tossed grape from me, and it was love at first sight.”  

Once she joined the Lands of Change team, the bond only grew between Gomez and Alyssa. She was able to achieve training goals with him that she didn’t know were possible considering their background. She was also privileged enough to get to know two of his offspring, and even named their last one.  

“He taught me so much as an animal trainer, keeper, and person,” Alyssa said. “I am heartbroken to say the least, and my day-to-day won’t be the same without him hopping on the perching to come greet me every day, and vocalizing when I wasn’t feeding him grapes fast enough.  

“He will be sorely missed. I got a color portrait tattoo of him on my back in April so he will be with me forever.”  

With his vibrant colors and huge bill, Gomez was a really magnificent bird to watch, said Lands of Change area supervisor Kristen Gagnon.  

“Plus, he was such a huge personality in our loop. He was intelligent, nosey, and eager to interact with his keepers.” 

He’ll be remembered by Kristen in part for his dramatic baths throughout the summer, during which he would spread out his wings under the misters until he was completely soaked!    

Watching him raise chicks alongside Morticia was incredibly special, a complicated process that not many people get to observe, Kristen said. He took amazing care of Morticia and their chicks, bringing them food all day long while they were in their nest cavity.  

“We are so grateful for the amount of time we got to spend with Gomez and all of the things he taught us as keepers,” Kristen said.