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$5,000 reward to catch Jasper’s killer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque BioPark Zoo is ramping up security with guards and surveillance cameras after a rare Tasmanian devil named Jasper was killed in his enclosure last week.

A reward of $5,000 also has been announced for information leading to the arrest of any individuals connected to Jasper’s death.

“The mayor has made it a top priority for our BioPark,” Mayor Richard Berry’s chief of staff Gilbert Montaño told the Journal.

Jasper was found dead Wednesday morning and police believe someone intentionally killed him with a chunk of asphalt. A veterinary exam concluded Jasper died from a fractured skull and brain trauma, and a piece of asphalt was found nearby.

Jasper, who was found dead in his outdoor enclosure on Wednesday, was one of four Tasmanian devils introduced to zoo visitors in December 2013. (Courtesy of ABQ BioPark)

Jasper, who was found dead in his outdoor enclosure on Wednesday, was one of four Tasmanian devils introduced to zoo visitors in December 2013. (Courtesy of ABQ BioPark)

As of Monday, police had not identified a suspect, Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier said.

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The exact cause of the fracture has yet to be determined. Tissue samples were sent to a lab for testing, but it could take days or even weeks to be examined and results returned, according to a New Mexico BioPark Society news release.

There were no security cameras capturing footage of the enclosure where the Tasmanian devil was kept, but “there is surveillance video in that general area,” Tixier said. The investigation is ongoing and police are looking at footage of areas around the enclosure to try to identify people who might have witnessed the crime or committed it.

Montaño said more security guards are patrolling the zoo and more cameras will be installed around the grounds, although he declined to say how many of either is included in the new security plan.

Jasper was one of four Tasmanian devils – two males and two females – loaned to the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo as part of an effort to create a breeding program for the species that has been decimated by a form of cancer. The Tasmanian devils came to the zoo in December 2013 on loan from the Healesville Sanctuary in Australia. They are among only about 600 alive in captivity today, according to Zoo Director Rick Janser.

“We have worked long and hard to bring these wonderful creatures to the United States and to provide them with a top-notch environment,” Janser said. “To have this happen so soon after they arrived here has been very hard on the zoo staffers who work daily with these fascinating animals.”

Montaño said zoo officials have been in contact with officials from Australia, and the Mayor’s Office has not heard of any plans by Australian authorities to remove the other three Tasmanian devils from the zoo.

The New Mexico BioPark Society is offering $4,000 – in addition to a $1,000 reward from Crime Stoppers – for information leading to the arrest of any individuals involved in Jasper’s death, the society announced in a news release.

Police are asking for anyone who may have information about this case to call Crime Stoppers at 843-7867.

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