By Kirk Mitchell
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 02/24/2007 04:58:04 PM MST
A jaguar mauled a Denver zookeeper to death today at about 11:30 a.m. as she was working inside the animal's cage, officials say.
The employee, whose identity was not released, was taken to Denver Health Medical Center, but died from her injuries, said Sonny Jackson, Denver police spokesman.
Zookeepers who entered the jaguar's enclosure to rescue the injured worker shot the animal to death when it approached them, said Tiffany Barnhart, zoo spokeswoman.
Police are investigating the mauling, said Sonny Jackson, Denver police spokesman.
"Any time you have an accident under unusual circumstances, we do an investigation," Jackson said.
The incident occurred within the animal's exhibit and at no time was the public in any danger, Barnhart said. The zoo was closed after the incident, she said.
"Denver Zoo's top priority is the safety and well-being of our guests, employees and animals," Barnhart said.
The jaguar came to Denver from Santa Cruz Zoo, Bolivia, in March of 2005, she said. The cat is approximately six years old.
The jaguar is the third largest cat in the world behind the tiger and lion, according to the zoo's website.
"Yet, they have the most powerful jaw of all the big cats," the zoo website says. "The jaguar's coat has many rosette like markings that help them to blend into the forest. In addition they have shorter legs for running and jumping through thick jungles."
The cat is on the endangered species list because of decreasing numbers of them in the wild, the website says.
"The largest concerns for the jaguars are their loss of habitat and poachers," the zoo reports.
Staff writer Kirk Mitchell can be reached at 303-954-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.