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The original item was published from 6/27/2017 3:12:00 PM to 9/2/2017 12:00:01 AM.

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County Parks and Zoo

Posted on: June 27, 2017

[ARCHIVED] Beloved Tiger at Cape May County Zoo Passes

Rocky 2

Contact:  Dr. Hubert Paluch, Veterinarian

609 465-5271

June 26, 2017


Beloved Tiger at Cape May County Zoo Passes

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ --The Cape May County Zoo is saddened to report that ‘Rocky’ their Siberian Tiger passed away on Saturday, June 24th 2017. 

Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, who oversees the Park and Zoo released a statement late Saturday afternoon on the passing of the beloved tiger. "Rocky was a rock star and held celebrity status at the Zoo for many years.  He was a magnificent animal that delighted visitors to the Zoo from the time he arrived until his passing.  Rocky, and all the other species that are part of the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP), are an important part of the research to learn more about the habits and behavior of endangered species and aid in the recovery.  He will be missed."AltText

‘Rocky’ was born at Six Flags Great Adventure, in Jackson NJ on April, 6 2001.  He was born small and weak and his mother, sensing a weak cub, refused to take care of him.  ‘Rocky’ had to be hand-raised by Veterinary staff and eventually made his way to the Cape May County Zoo in April 2002.   At six weeks, he became an “Animal Ambassador” because of his story.  He traveled across the Northeast appearing on the Today Show, CNN, NJ News 12 Pet Stop and Fox News New York.  The New York Times covered his story over a one year period and it was picked up by the Associated Press.  He was filmed by the National Geographic Channel and Rocky became a national sensation.

‘Rocky’ almost immediately became a favorite at the Cape May County Zoo.  He was a male Siberian Tiger, the largest species of Big Cats on the planet.  His calm and social disposition set him apart and he always had a friendly chuff for his favorite keepers and Veterinarian. (Chuffing is a greeting vocalization).

‘Rocky’ was undoubtedly the most recognized symbol of the Cape May County Zoo.  During his 16 years he was visited by millions of people.  ‘Rocky’ was a majestic Tiger and a central part of the SSP, through his life at the Zoo he served to inspire people to appreciate Siberian Tigers, understand the importance for conservation, and learn what individuals can do to help in the conservation efforts of all endangered animals.

‘Rocky’ led a long healthy life.  After a battle with Cancer in 2014, multiple surgeries and 6 months of chemotherapy he did exceptionally well.  It wasn’t until  ‘Rocky’ started approaching 16 years old that he had any problems.  Like many aging Tigers, ‘Rocky’ started having difficulties with his hips and hind legs.  We had noticed that he lost some muscle mass and appeared a little unsteady.  The multiple surgeries on his right hind leg only added to his issues.  His hind legs deteriorated over a short time last week.  He was euthanized on Saturday, June 24th after failure of his hind legs due to the combined effects of a degenerative condition in his spine, osteoarthritis in his hips and complications from the multiple surgeries in his right hind leg.

Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton expressed the sentiments of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, “We would like to thank everyone for their support of Rocky and the Zoo over the years.  Rocky was a legend and favorite of the community, our zoo staff and those from around the country who visited our Zoo.  This is difficult time for all of us.  It will be hard to envision our Zoo without ‘Rocky’ watching over things from his habitat.  However, Rocky will continue to be the face of this county’s ongoing efforts in wildlife conservation.

Rocky was buried in the Zoo Courtyard, right next to Numar the Lion.  We invite you to visit Rocky’s memorial, and never forget how awe-inspiring he was.



The mission of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) cooperatively managed Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program is to oversee the population management of select species within AZA member institutions (i.e., AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, Conservation Partners, and Certified Related Facilities (CRFs)) and to enhance conservation of this species in the wild. Each SSP Program coordinates the individual activities of participating member institutions through a variety of species conservation, research, husbandry, management, and educational initiatives.

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