ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of one of four Tasmanian devils loaned to the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo by an Australian group.
The animal, named Jasper, was provided to the facility last year, along with three others, by the Healesville Sanctuary in Australia as part of an overall effort to start a breeding program for the endangered species, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1ogPRP0 ).
The devils' population on the island of Tasmania south of the Australian mainland has been decimated by a form of cancer.
Jasper was discovered dead in his outdoor enclosure on Wednesday, the newspaper reported.
Investigators suspect the animal was killed by someone who hit it with a piece of asphalt that was found near its body, according to an Albuquerque police report.
"Upon hearing about it, the mayor was shocked, outraged, extremely concerned," said Gilbert Montaño, Mayor Richard Berry's chief of staff. "These little guys are an endangered species."
The zoo reported finding Jasper's body in a pool of blood inside its enclosure. An examination of the animal found its skull had been fractured.
Authorities are asking anyone who saw something to come forward.
"The whole idea to have the animals here was to create a breeding ground," Montaño said. "We hope this doesn't jeopardize our efforts to create a habitat for an endangered animal."
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com