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Jaguar fatally mauls a Denver zookeeper

February 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

DENVER — A zookeeper died Saturday after a 140-pound jaguar mauled her in the doorway of its exhibit, and the cat was fatally shot when it approached emergency workers treating the woman, the zoo said.

The zookeeper, whose name was not immediately released, was taken to a Denver hospital, where she died, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

The park closed after the shooting. It planned to reopen today, but the feline building was to remain closed.

"We are deeply saddened by this loss," said the zoo's president and chief executive, Clayton Freiheit.

He said the zoo sent its condolences to her relatives.

"This keeper was a part of our family, and we too are grieving the loss of one of our own," he said.

Zoo officials did not know how the mauling occurred or what led up to the attack, spokeswoman Amy Sarno said.

The investigation may center on how the jaguar came in contact with the zookeeper. Under zoo policy, staff cannot be in any large-cat exhibit when the animal is there.

The zookeeper had undergone regular safety training for the exhibit, had shadowed veteran keepers and had attended mandatory safety meetings, officials said.

The jaguar, a 6-year-old male named Jorge, was shot by a zoo employee, and the public was never at risk, the zoo said. The cat had been at the zoo for nearly two years.

The facility added a 16-month-old female jaguar named Caipora in December, the zoo's website said, to be paired with Jorge when she was old enough.

The site notes: "The jaguar is the third-largest cat in the world behind the tiger and lion. Yet they have the most powerful jaw of all the big cats."

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