Authorities are investigating the death of a Tasmanian devil at the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the zoo had four Tasmanian devils, which are endangered and threatened with extinction, on loan from a Healesville Sanctuary in Australia as part of an overall effort to start a breeding program. Tasmanian devils live on the small island of Tasmania, which is just south of Australia. The species is nearing extinction due to a form of cancer that is wiping out the population. Devil Disease, known officially as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), is a devastating disease that sweeps through Tasmania’s devil population. It is killing more than 90 percent of adults in high density areas and 40-50 percent in medium-low density areas, according to Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Department.
Jasper, the Tasmanian devil, was discovered dead in his outdoor enclosure on Wednesday. ABC News says that the situation surrounding the death points to intentional murder of the animal. Zoo officials say that Jasper was found lying in his cage in a pool of blood, his skull cracked. Police say they believe Jasper died of blunt force trauma to the head. A piece of asphalt that did not belong there was found inside his cage.
Zoo officials and police are not sure of the exact time that Jasper was killed. However, police say that they are looking for an assailant at this time. The police department does note that there are no specific suspects at this time, but they will be investigating further.
Gilbert Montaño, Mayor Richard Berry’s chief-of-staff, said that the mayor is “shocked” and “outraged.”
“Upon hearing about it, the mayor was shocked, outraged, extremely concerned. These little guys are an endangered species.”
Montaño also noted that the entire purpose of the animals coming to the zoo was for a breeding program. The mayor is hoping that those efforts are not jeopardized by the incident.
“The whole idea to have the animals here was to create a breeding ground. We hope this doesn’t jeopardize our efforts to create a habitat for an endangered.”
Police are asking that anyone who has information to please come forward to aid in the investigation.
This isn’t the first time an endangered species has been murdered. In fact, earlier this year, elephant poachers became such a threat that rangers requested extra help in protecting the endangered animals. Protecting the animals has proven dangerous with poachers even killing rangers to get to the elephants.
[Image Credit: Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Department]