Havana's beloved Pancho the Pelican run over by car

Pancho was well known in Havana for following commands

By Hatzel Vela - Cuba Correspondent

HAVANA, Cuba. - Pancho the Pelican was a happy-go-lucky bird that was popular in the streets of Havana.

After all, he lived right smack in the middle of busy 23rd Street in the city's Vedado neighborhood.

Almost every morning, Pancho went for his morning walk.  

Tourists and locals couldn't miss the long beak and the way its neck tilts, but what caught their attention was the interaction with its owner, Freddy De Leon.

Pancho was trained to follow commands and people couldn't get enough of him. 

Along the Malecón, his owner told Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela that Pancho came to him six years ago after being injured with a fishing hook. 

Since then, Pancho was just part of the family.

And, like family, Pancho can be possessive -- at times not letting people get close to De Leon. 

De Leon said Pancho knew what to do when he said, "Get up," (and) "come here," especially if there was fish involved. 

"Everyone knows him here in Havana," De Leon said in Spanish. 

While Pancho was at times skittish, he was always comfortable with people. 

But his story took a fatal turn when he was accidentally run over by a car.

"There is no way to express it," De Leon said of his loss. 

While shooting the interview with Local 10, other pelicans started flying over and behind, at times diving right in, in a big display of their skills. Perhaps, for De Leon, it was a sign of Pancho in a happy afterlife, flying and fishing in the Cuban waters. 

"Nothing will replace him," De Leon said. 

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