"Brutu ",the Cape May County Zoo's lion, when he arrived at the zoo in 2002

Danny Drake

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Brutu, a 16-year-old male lion and a major attraction at the Cape May County Park and Zoo, has been euthanized due to age-related arthritis and spinal cord issues.

The passing of “Bru” was announced by Freeholder E. Marie Hayes on Tuesday. The lion was euthanized on Friday as his condition deteriorated.

“We are deeply saddened about losing him but inspired by his courage and bravery during the last several months,” Hayes said.

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The popular lion began having problems with his hind legs this past winter and was kept indoors most of the time. He was also treated with medications to control pain and inflammation.

Alexander Ernst, the zoo’s associate veterinarian, said they were able to get him outside this spring so he could enjoy sleeping in the sun. Ernst said it was one of Brutu’s favorite pastimes. Unfortunately, problems related to a compressed spinal cord continued to affect his coordination and stability and it was clear he was not going to get better.

The zoo took the unprecedented step of having an MRI done, which involved transporting Brutu more than two hours away to the Northstar Veterinary Referral Center in Robbinsville, Mercer County. The MRI revealed spinal cord issues that would be difficult to treat for any animal, much less a lion.

The zoo community is sad about the passing but Ernst said they were also inspired by the lion’s “attitude and spirit” in his final days.

Contact Richard Degener:


Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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