Brutu, Cape May County zoo’s lion, dies

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Brutu in a file photo from last fall. The lion was euthanized on Friday. Brutu in a file photo from last fall. The lion was euthanized on Friday. CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE —  Brutu, the well-known male lion at the Cape May County zoo, has died, county officials announced on Tuesday.

One of several big cats at the zoo, the lion was 16 years old.

“It is with great sadness to announce the passing of our male lion, Brutu, on Friday, May 23, ‘Bru, suffered from complications of age related arthritis and spinal cord issues,” said Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, liaison to the Park and Zoo, in a prepared statement. “We are extremely grateful for the excellent care and expertise given to all our animals at the zoo and especially the attention extended to ensure ‘Bru’ was comfortable during the past few months.”

Zoo Director and Veterinarian Dr. Hubert Paluch reported that “Bru” began having weakness and lack of coordination of his hind legs during this past winter. 

“We were able to manage his condition with medications that controlled pain and inflammation.  However, the winter was very tough on ‘Bru,’ and the cold damp weather forced us to keep him indoors most of the time,” Paluch reported.  “Through it all ‘Bru’ fought on and appeared to stabilize.  We knew he would never be the athlete that he once was but he was able to get around and was otherwise happy and healthy.  We continued to manage his medications very closely, always adjusting them to provide the most benefit.”

Dr. Alexander Ernst, associate veterinarian, reported, “We were able to get ‘Bru’ outside during the early spring to allow him to once again enjoy sleeping in the sun, one of his favorite pastimes. We were concerned that our visitors might not understand why he was unstable in his hind legs.  We apologize for any misunderstanding but ‘Bru’s’ welfare was more important than anything else.”

“Unfortunately ‘Bru’ wasn’t stable for very long. The weakness in his hind legs got worse and we took the unprecedented step to take him to our colleagues at Northstar Veterinary Referral Center in Robbinsville.  This trip was over two hours each way and while there he had an MRI, the first of its kind,” Ernst added.

Cape May County released this image of Brutu undergoing an MRI while under sedation. Cape May County released this image of Brutu undergoing an MRI while under sedation. The MRI revealed spinal cord compression that was likely causing the problems “Bru” was experiencing. Treatment for this is difficult in any animal, and especially in a lion.

“We were inspired by “Bru’s” attitude and spirit during this whole process.  He was a fighter and we wanted to give him every chance possible to stabilize and recover,” said Ernst.

“After extensive and careful evaluation, it was realized that ‘Bru’ wouldn’t get better. His condition continued to deteriorate and he was euthanized on Friday morning. We are deeply saddened about losing him but inspired by his courage and bravery during the last several months,” added Hayes. 


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