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Killer the Golden Conure

Emily Robinson | Feb 03, 2014


"Killer," Golden Conure hatched ??? , died 14 December 2013

I was heartbroken last month to learn of the death of a very special bird, a Golden Conure named Killer. I was fortunate enough to meet Killer on a trip to visit her longtime companion, Presley -- the Spix's Macaw whose miraculous discovery in Colorado in 2002 made headlines and inspired the animated movie "Rio." Bill and Linda Wittkoff, proprietors of the Lymington Foundation in Brazil and current caretakers for Presley, opened their home and hearts to me and made possible an experience I will never forget.

Killer was a special case. She was discovered in a shoebox left at the gate of the São Paolo Zoo in 2001, unable to flap her wings or even walk. Given the state of her injuries, Linda suspected she had been kept malnourished and in a tiny cage for most of her life which sadly is a common practice in Brazil. After two years of loving rehabilitation by the Wittkoffs she regained the ability to walk, but would never fly again.

Killer the Golden Conure

Meeting Presley was an incredible experience in and of itself, but the Spix's Macaws are not the only endangered parrot species in dire need of help. The Wittkoffs' work on breeding and conservation is invaluable to many species, the Golden Conure foremost among them. I will never forget the cheeky yellow birds with emerald green wings racing along their aviaries as I passed, daring me to threaten their nest boxes, but about as terrifying as overgrown baby chicks. These endearing and beautiful birds, once widespread in Brazil, are now highly endangered in the wild, with numbers that continue to dwindle.

Linda received permission to house Presley and Killer together in a large aviary overlooking the rainforest valley, where the two of them have shared their lives since 2008. I have fond memories of my visit in 2012, watching Killer stagger around the aviary like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Crippled but always cheerful, she would emit nearly imperceptible whistles. She earned her reputation and nickname by attacking any male who approached her vicinity, undeterred by her handicap.

Despite her early tribulations, she was able to live her sunset years peacefully and happily thanks to the Wittkoff's careful tending. Killer died suddenly on the morning of 14 December of 2013, most likely of heart failure. Presley has been paired with a new companion, a female Vinaceous Amazon. Linda reports that so far he is very active and engaged with his new friend, Priscilla by name. She thinks Priscilla may remind him off the Amazon with which he spent over 20 years in Colorado. Presley himself is showing signs of aging, but the Wittkoffs are ensuring he has a healthy diet, is kept warm at all times, and is under their constant care.