Denver Zoo closed for keeper’s memorial

By Felisa Cardona
Denver Post Staff Writer
Denver Post
Article Last Updated:03/01/2007 02:33:57 AM MST

The Denver Zoo is closed today while employees participate in a private memorial for Ashlee Pfaff, the zookeeper who was killed by a 140-pound jaguar.

“We are not aware of any time in the past that Denver Zoo has closed in memorial to anyone,” said Ana Bowie, zoo spokeswoman. The zoo normally is open every day.

Jorge the jaguar was shot and killed during the Saturday attack in an attempt to save Pfaff’s life. The cat will be cremated, Bowie said. The zoo will reopen at 10 a.m. Friday, but the feline building where 28-year-old Pfaff was attacked will remain closed while investigations by several agencies are underway.

“This is probably the most difficult time for the Denver Zoo family in our 111-year history,” said Clayton Freiheit, zoo president and chief executive, in a prepared statement.

The cost of closing the zoo for one day in lost admission and concession revenue has not been determined, Bowie said, because the amount depends on attendance.

“The cost is irrelevant to Denver Zoo,” Bowie said. “This is something we want to do to honor Ashlee’s memory, to help us heal.”

Denver police, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums continue to investigate the incident. Zoo officials responding to the scene of the attack found the keeper door separating Pfaff and Jorge open and unlocked. The locks and doors were in working order, officials said.

Pfaff was a 2002 New Mexico State University biology graduate who worked for three years with felines and other animals at the zoo and the former Ocean Journey aquarium. She died from injuries to her neck, spinal column and spinal cord.

Jorge arrived at the Denver Zoo in March 2005 from Santa Cruz Zoo in Bolivia.

Staff writer Felisa Cardona can be reached at 303-954-1219 or


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