Princess the camel picks Packers for Super Bowl
New Jersey's pigskin-picking fixture at the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township has been selecting the winners of football games for the past five years.
The Bactrian camel's prognostication skills flow from her love of graham crackers. John Bergmann, the zoo's general manager, places a cracker and writes the name of the competing teams on each hand. Whichever hand Princess nibbles from is her pick for that week.
"What started out as a fun weekly activity a few years ago has become an annual tradition," he said. "Princess has her own fan base, probably as strong as some of this year's NFL quarterbacks. She is definitely our MVP."
Lifetime, Princess is 74-45, although she had a rather mediocre season last year, going 11-9 on weekly games. Her best season was 2008, when she got 17 out of 22 games right, including correctly picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl.
The only Super Bowl call Princess has flubbed was last year's, in which she picked the Indianapolis Colts to top the New Orleans Saints. She correctly picked the winners of the three previous Super Bowls.
Never having gotten the hang of point spreads, Princess only calls straight-up winners.
Princess was once the personal pet of heiress Doris Duke, the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke.
Doris Duke raised Princess and her sister Babe from youngsters, Bergmann said.
The pair of camels had their own barn and were taken on summer vacation to Duke's Rhode Island estate. During bad weather, they were put up in the solarium, he said.
After Duke's death in 1993, the camels stayed on her estate in Hillsborough. Babe died several years ago, leaving just Princess.
When Princess' caretaker was about to retire, the estate offered Princess to Popcorn Park Zoo, which took her in.