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New to the St. Louis Zoo: Tasmanian devils

New to the St. Louis Zoo: Tasmanian devils

Tasmanian devils new to the zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo now cares for two female Tasmanian devils in a new $550,000 Emerson Children’s Zoo habitat, opening Thursday, April 28, 2016.

Two female Tasmanian devils, an endangered species, can now call the St. Louis Zoo home. 

Their new $550,000 habitat in the Emerson Children’s Zoo opens April 28. The sisters’ arrival marks the first time in 30 years that the zoo has cared for this species.

Yindi (YIN-dee) and Jannali (JAN-al-ee), both age 2, arrived last month in St. Louis from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia. Tasmanian devils are found in the wild only in Tasmania, an island state of Australia. 

The animals are the world's largest carnivorous marsupials and are well known for their intense vocalizations — an extremely loud screech — and their "Looney Tunes" cartoon character.

Tasmanian devils new to the St. Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo now cares for two female Tasmanian devils in a new $550,000 Emerson Children’s Zoo habitat, opening Thursday, April 28, 2016.

But they are also at risk. Tasmanian devil populations in the wild have been decimated since the emergence of devil facial tumor disease in 1996, which is spread through devils’ biting each other in fights. 

The St. Louis Zoo is one of six selected U.S. zoos to care for Tasmanian devils as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, an Australian government initiative. As part of its commitment to this species, the Zoo provides funds to Australia’s Zoo Aquarium Association Wildlife Conservation Fund supporting Tasmanian devil population monitoring and management. 

"These two animals will serve as ambassadors to raise awareness among our 3.2 million annual visitors about the need to save the wild devil population," said Jeffrey Bonner, chief executive officer of the Saint Louis Zoo, in a news release. 

At the new habitat, zoo visitors will be able to view the Tasmanian devils through two eight-foot-by-eight-foot Ornilux glass panels. This is the first exhibit at the Zoo to incorporate this special glass, which is glazed with ultraviolet reflective striping that is highly visible to birds, yet almost invisible to humans.

"While their name makes Tasmanian devils sound scary, they are actually quite shy," said Alice Seyfried, curator of the Children's Zoo. "We are told the name ‘devil’ may come from the sounds they make. They make eerie growls while searching for food at night. And when a group of them feeds together, they screech and scream. They really are fascinating animals to care for and observe.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect opening date for the animal exhibit. 

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Jessica Bock is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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