For anyone who has driven down I-40 West to Albuquerque, NM, many large billboards can be seen as your nearing the city. One such billboard has been on display for a while, featuring the word “Tasmanian Devils” in large letters. Yes, the Tasmanian Devils have been on display in the city but with an incident that occurred recently, the Tasmanian Devils are being displayed amongst headlines, in the worst way. A Tasmanian Devil was found with its head crushed at the ABQ BioPark, which features an aquarium and zoo, and police are now investigating the murder of the animal.
Though this is not the cute and fury Tasmanian Devil that spins in circles at hundreds of miles per hour, spits, and speaks in noises, that can be seen on many of the Looney Tunes cartoon shows, this Tasmanian Devil was real and endangered. The species was named endangered in the year 2008. As the numbers dropped since the 1990’s scientists were worried that the species would not be around by the mid-2020’s. The problem comes with an apparent “facial tumor disease” in which the animals seem to suffer, leading to an increase in deaths.
The Tasmanian Devils were brought into the zoo in Dec. of last year and have been the excitement of many as the new feature attracted many guests to the exhibit. Bringing the devils into the park was ten years in the making. The ABQ zoo is apparently only one of two in the U.S. that features the animal. The ABQ BioPark is said to have been planning a breeding facility for the animal. The zoo created renderings so that people could see what the site was suppose to look like. However with the recent crime at the zoo, this project could be in trouble. Director Rick Janser of the ABQ BioPark said that the zoo was in discussions with the Australian government. Because of the crime, the zoo will have to notify the Australian government of the animal’s death.
Only four Tasmanian Devils were brought to the park. Jasper, the Tasmanian Devil that was killed, was the youngest of the group, leaving the three others who are too old to have babies. Though at first, conclusions were that the animal was murdered, but Janser says it is possible that it was an accident, due to the fact that there are rocks inside the exhibit. Police still expect that the animal was killed, as a piece of asphalt rock was found by the corpse. The scenarios drawn up between the zoo and the police are that someone either threw the asphalt rock at Jasper or he slipped somewhere on the rocks and fell, leaving a rock to fall on top of him. The ABQ BioPark has sent samples away, however, they believe it will probably take several weeks to get back any results.
They are sure, at this point, that the animal died from having its skull crushed. Staff say that the last time they saw Jasper was around 4:30 on Tuesday. Sources say there is video surveillance of the walkway leading up to the outdoor enclosure, where the Tasmanian Devils are, but footage has not been released.
Staff at the zoo are hoping that this unfortunate event will not effect their future breeding project. They are hoping to work things out with the Australian government to get more, younger devils, in order to continue with the plans. Bringing the four in before cost about $10,000 for just the flight. But Janser says bringing more in would be worth it as they can establish a breeding population and hopefully thwart the numbers leading to extinction of the animal.
Crime Stoppers is asking anyone with information to go forward, offering a reward. There is no current news as to whether the Tasmanian Devil site will stay open, or not, at the zoo until the results come back on Jasper. Until then, it is believed that visitors of the BioPark can still see the site where the remaining Tasmanian Devils are.
By Crystal Boulware