Tasmanian devils make their San Diego debut - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Tasmanian devils make their San Diego debut

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Four Tasmanian devils brought in from Australia made their public debut Thursday today at the San Diego Zoo.

Bradley, Bixby, De-Vos and Usmar arrived at the zoo last month and were placed under a mandatory 30-day quarantine. They came from the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia.

The zoo, the only one in the U.S. to have the endangered species, is housing the animals in its Australian Outback exhibit. They spent their quarantine period in a special section of the exhibit that was blocked from public view until Thursday morning.

Usmar is female, the rest are males.

Tasmanian devils, native to the island state of Tasmania, are nocturnal hunters that live in forest, woodland and agricultural areas and use their keen senses of smell and hearing to find prey or carrion. They can give off a fierce snarl and high-pitched scream, which can be heard at feeding time, to establish dominance.

They face extinction in the wild due to devil facial tumor disease, a rare, contagious cancer found only in devils. DFTD is transmitted from one animal to another through biting, a common behavior among devils when mating and feeding.

The disease kills all infected devils within six to 12 months, as there is no known cure or vaccine. The four Tasmanian devils at the San Diego Zoo are free of the disease.

The zoo is now part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, a government initiative established 10 years ago to fight the condition.

"Many people know about the Tasmanian devil, but few understand how endangered they truly are," said zoo ambassador Rick Schwartz.

"Having them here at the San Diego Zoo will help tell their story to a much larger audience and inspire people to take action to save them," he said.

"It is just another wonderful example of how zoos and conservation organizations work together to stop extinction before it happens."

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