THREE Tasmanian devils, nicknamed Itchy, Scratchy and Genghis, are on the loose from Peel Zoo after a large eucalyptus tree crashed into one of the Devil Haven enclosures in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
However, hopes the endangered escapees will be recovered were raised when a member of the public phoned zoo owner David Cobbold around 3.15pm today to say he'd seen one of the devils in bushland at the rear of the zoo,
The recently-built enclosure housed seven male Tasmanian devils, all about 18 months of age.
Five of the animals escaped, with two captured on zoo grounds and returned to their enclosures. The other three devils have fled the zoo grounds with staff continuing to search the surrounding area for them.
The accident has been reported to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), the Murray Shire and the Tasmanian devil species manager at the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA).
Staff at Peel Zoo worked tirelessly to secure and rebuild the damaged enclosure this week with traps set in the area in an effort to recapture the escaped animals.
Staff then continued their search Tuesday night, following trails they believed could have been made by the devils.
Peel Zoo is at the forefront of Tasmanian devil breeding and zoo spokesperson David Cobbold said it was important for people in the area to be on the lookout for the animals.
“It’s our duty of care to notify the general public,” Mr Cobbold said.
“Although these animals have been hand-reared in the zoo, people should not approach them.”
Tasmanian devils are an endangered species and have an acute sense of smell which may lead them to travel 10-20 kilometres in a single night.
The size of a small dog, they have the highest bite-to-weight ratio of any animal in the world although pose little threat to humans, being more likely to run than fight.
But, like any animal when cornered, they can be aggressive.
Sheep graziers should be aware lambing may attract devils.
The devils are solitary animals but may stick together due to living with each other in captivity and any sightings of these animals must be reported to Peel Zoo immediately on 0400 788 289.