Camel famed for Super Bowl picks dies at NJ zoo

LACEY, NJ- Princess the camel, who gained fame picking Super Bowl winners and dozens of other football games for the last decade, was euthanized Tuesday after arthritis made it impossible for the 26-year-old animal to stand, said John Bergmann, manager of theAssociated Humane Society's Popcorn Park Zoo.

"She had to go in dignity because that is how she lived her life," Bergmann said.

"Her absence leaves a big void in the park," Bergmann said. "It was not just her size, but her personality, and to not have her here leaves a big hole."

Princess was at the zoo 10 years, he said. She had been donated from a private estate after the owner died.

Bergmann said he never had any problem taking in the 2,000-pound camel, but quickly learned the animal was hindered most of her life by arthritis.

He said that despite different therapies, the arthritis had become so extreme in the last few years that Princess could not stand on Monday, which brought on the decision to euthanize her, he said.

Before the end, Bergmann contacted veterinarians and groomers who had taken care of Princess in previous years and they came to visit.

"They were all there on one day for Princess," he said.

Bergmann declined to identify the location for Princess' remains.

Born on June 24, 1987, the camel quickly adapted to zoo life, Bergmann said.

Radio stunt
He said Princess gained national fame after the Stafford-based radio station WCHR-FM, 105.7, "The Hawk," called about eight or nine years ago and asked for an animal to pick Super Bowl winners against the disc jockeys' picks.

"She was a natural," Bergmann said. "We just used some graham crackers."

Princess' last pick was correct. She picked Denver to beat San Diego last Sunday in the NFL playoffs.

Last January, Princess correctly chose the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Her best season was in 2008-2009, when she accurately chose 17 out of 22 games, as well as the Super Bowl XLIII winner, the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to previous reports.

A memorial is being planned for Princess, but Bergmann said plans aren't finalized.

Facebook page
He saidhundreds of people on Princess' Facebook page have expressed sadness at her death.

"There have been hundreds of well-wishers. People waited Thursday night for her pick because that's the night she would pick her winners," he said.

Toms River residents Rose Marie Matano and her husband, Joe, visited the veterinary hospital at the zoo Wednesday. They said they were sad to hear Princess had died. However, they praised the zoo for caring for the animal for so long.

"It's a great place and the people are really nice," Rose Marie Matano said. "We're animal lovers. It's a shame to hear one died."

Visitor Diane Hegyes of Seaside Heights said she never met the camel, but thought it was wonderful the animal had lived so long.

"I think they do a lot of good rescuing animals like that," Hegyes said. "It was a good home for the camel."


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