Clayton Freiheit

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Clayton Freiheit "was born and educated in Buffalo, New York. While attending the University of Buffalo, he worked as an animal caretaker at the Buffalo Museum of Science and was also employed in its Education and Exhibit Preparation Departments. In May of 1960, he was appointed Curator of the Buffalo Zoological Gardens. In order to get this job, Freiheit called upon Marlin Perkins, then Director of Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, whom he had only met a few times, and was able to persuade Marlin to recommend Clayton for the Buffalo Zoo job. At that time, he was still in his senior year in college and only 22-years-old. He may still hold the record as the youngest-ever head of an AZA institution, as the title "Curator" then was the same as Director. Under his stewardship, the collection and exhibits of the Buffalo Zoo nearly doubled and the zoo achieved national stature.

"On October 1, 1970, Freiheit was appointed Director of the Denver Zoo, and since September 1998 has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Zoological Foundation which manages the zoo under a cooperative agreement with the City and County of Denver.

"Twenty years later to the day, October 1, 1990, then Mayor of Denver, Federico Pena, proclaimed that October 1, 1990, would be known forever more as "Clayton Freiheit Day" in Denver. In October of 2004, Freiheit will celebrate his 35th year as head of the Denver Zoo and as President & Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Zoological Foundation, Inc., the not-for-profit corporation which actually operates, manages, directs and controls the Denver Zoo under contract with the City and County of Denver. It is interesting to note that, in his more than 45 years of employment in the zoo world, Clayton Freiheit has never held a zoo job other than as a director of a zoological institution.

"Clayton Freiheit also served as a Member of the Board of Directors of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) from 1962-1965 and was elected as this organization's President 1967-1968. In 1969, Clayton Freiheit was elected to membership in the prestigious International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens (IUDZG), now the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) headquartered in Bern, Switzerland. He was re-elected as a member of the AZA's Board of Directors 1986 to 1989 and re-elected to AZA Board membership for a three-year term in 1998-2000. Freiheit became a member of AZA's Accreditation Commission in September 1991 and was appointed to serve as its Chairman for 1996-1997. He is currently an advisor to AZA's Accreditation Commission and also serves as a member of AZA's Editorial Board and its Constitution & Bylaws Committee and as a member of the Steering Committee of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and of the World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission.

"In 1996, Clayton Freiheit was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the University of Denver, Colorado." [1]

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  1. American Zoo & Aquarium Association Honors Denver Zoo's Clayton F. Freiheit With R. Marlin Perkins Award, Denver Zoo, accessed November 23, 2007.
  2. Staff and Trustees, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, accessed November 24, 2007.