Four Tasmanian devils arrived in Albuquerque on December 18, 2013, and are claiming the Albuquerque Zoo as their new home. Sent here from the island of Tasmania in Australia, they are ambassadors of their species to help educate the public on the horrific malady that has beset their own. The Albuquerque foursome is part of a conservation program to save their kind - Tasmanian devils - from extinction.
The Albuquerque Rio Grande Zoo at the ABQ BioPark is one of only two zoos in America that have been chosen to receive breeding pairs of the Tasmanian devils (affectionately called Tassies by many Australians).
"Tasmanian devils are endangered, and we're joining other conservation facilities in an effort to secure a healthy future for the species," said Rick Janser, Director of the ABQ BioPark. "We have been working with Androo Kelly, Director of Trowunna Wildlife Park, for more than 10 years to learn about these fascinating creatures. Now we are introducing Tasmanian devils to Albuquerque so we can all be part of saving them."
Only found in Tasmania, the nocturnal Tasmanian devils are the world's largest carnivorous marsupials, and are known to engage in aggressive biting with their kind. Unfortunately, this biting is now the cause of what could be their ultimate demise. Devil facial tumor disease is a contagious and fatal cancer that only affects Tasmanian devils and is spread by their biting behavior. Over 80 percent of the population has been decimated due to a disease that eventually starves the animal. As if this mortality rate isn't high enough, many Tasmanian devils are inadvertently victims of "road kill" due to their nightly forays and their ability to blend in with the darkness. Motorists don't see them until it is too late.
Meanwhile, scientists are searching for a cure while cancer-free Tasmanian devils are being raised in a variety of zoos.
"We are committed to saving this unique, dynamic species," said Janser. "We're excited to be part of this effort. Being selected as one of only two institutions in the United States to care for Tasmanian devils shows that the BioPark meets high standards and is a world class zoo."