Tasmanian Devils Welcomed at San Diego Zoo

International awareness of the plight of the endangered Tasmanian devil is set to be promoted with the recent opening of San Diego Zoo Global’s Tasmanian devil exhibit, signifying the start of the overseas expansion of the Tasmanian devil conservation program.

Tasmanian Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman was an official guest at San Diego Zoo’s ‘devil debut’ to formalise the first international partnership for the conservation program. He explained that San Diego Zoo was the first international zoo to receive Tasmanian devils under the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program’s Ambassador devil initiative which is designed to deliver significant benefits for the conservation of the devil – including practical on-ground support for activities being undertaken in Australia.

Mr Wightman said that the four Tasmanian devils which were transferred from Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo to San Diego earlier in October were the first of a number of devils to be placed in overseas zoos over the coming year under a pilot project.

“The animals were selected from the Insurance Population of well over 600 healthy devils which are being held in a range of institutions around Australia,” said Mr Wightman.

“They are no longer required for their genetic contribution to guard against the species’ extinction in Australia and will be used instead to publicise the Tasmanian devil and its fight against the deadly Devil Facial Tumour Disease on a world stage.

“It’s important that we begin to gain real support for the Tasmanian devil amongst a global community so as to ensure the sustainability of the Program and to meet conservation objectives over the long term."

“Given that San DiegoZoo is one of the world’s best zoos, receiving a huge number of visitors each year, there are likely to be significant benefits for expanding global awareness and increasing the potential for fundraising support for the Program."

“Furthermore, San Diego Zoo has a proven track record in species’ conservation management and is committed to delivering practical benefits for on-ground conservation activities in Australia. “The Program also stands to benefit greatly from access to a pool of international zoo experts and conservation scientists, from collaborative research and the application of the latest scientific research technologies,” he said.

Mr Wightman went on to explain that the Ambassador devil initiative would be trialled at San Diego Zoo and Albuquerque Zoo in North America, and at three zoos in New Zealand before hopefully being expanded to other zoos in North America, Europe and Asia. He said that only the most reputable zoos around the world would be selected to participate, so the Program could be confident that the highest quality of husbandry and facilities would be provided for caring for the devils.

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