In early 2014, the world was introduced to Bigbird, a charismatic great white pelican rescued by staff at Tanzania’s Greystroke Mahale camp after a storm separated him from the rest of his flock. 

Millions watched as a GoPro recorded camp manager Jeffrey Condon patiently teaching his new avian resident to fly and fish. We all celebrated when Bigbird caught a meal on his own, sparking hope that he might one day soar and scoop with his own species again.

Sadly, that day will not come. Bigbird was killed in a boating accident earlier this week, leaving staff at the lodge devastated. “We all have very heavy hearts here," reads a post on the Greystroke Mahale Facebook page. "BB was a huge part of our lives and now a large hole is felt in Mahale, he will be greatly missed by all."

Only about three months old when he was rescued, Birdbird was a scraggly mess when he first showed up on the beach outside Greystoke Mahale. But the resilient bird thrived under the care of ex-camp mangers Jeffrey and Kerry Condon, and quickly grew into a healthy 12-kilogram member of the family, complete with quirky habits like stealing sunglasses or magazines and discarding them in the lake.

Condon spent many hours in the water with Bigbird and took him out on his fishing kayak to encourage the rescued bird to catch food. The strategy worked and Bigbird finally managed to nab a fish towards the end of last year.

There was hope that Bigbird could one day join a flock of his own, but sadly it was not to be. "He was taken too early but had a very loving and exciting life with us all here," current Greystoke Mahale camp managers write in a blog post. "To the ones who got to know our friendly pelican you will have the greatest memories to treasure forever."

RIP, Bigbird.