SAN DIEGO, CA Visitors to the world-famous San Diego Zoo continue to be disappointed by the Tasmanian devil, say zoo officials.
"Really? This is it?" said one 7th-grader on a field trip. "This is a rip-off!"
Adults and children who visit the enclosure are often surprised when the animals don't spontaneously erupt into whirlwinds of chaos that decimate everything in their path. Experts have traced the misconception about the animal's abilities to the 1954 debut of a Looney Tunes character named "Taz."
"People visit with a preconceived notion that the devil is a larger- than-life beast that can rend people limb from limb," said James Leslie, manager of the San Diego Zoo. "They don't expect a weird rat-looking cat dog that's always sleeping. These are nocturnal animals that are mostly scavengers. They are capable of eating small kangaroos but, for obvious reasons, we don't throw live Joeys in the pen. Not during zoo hours, that is."
"We added some signage next to the devil's enclosure to warn visitors that the animal has no official affiliation with Looney Tunes, but it's not helping," he added, visibly frustrated.
In recent weeks, a family vacationing in California made it a point to visit the zoo for the sake of their 7-year-old daughter who wanted to see "the guy who spins." Zoo officials admit the family's trip ended in disaster.
"Why is he just sitting there?" 7-year-old Amy Veil had said. "Why isn't he spinning?"
"Actually, that devil is a female," interjected Zookeeper Holly Darmagale with a smile. "We named her Tilda Swinton. She is nocturnal so she doesn't do much during the day."
Little Amy was hopeful. "So she turns into a tornado at night?"
The wide-eyed young girl, who once dreamed of being a zookeeper herself, left the exhibit in tears. Her father later filed an official complaint.
Zoo officials confirm they receive over 48 complaints about the Tasmanian devil each day. They warn that if people don't stop associating the animal with its cartoon counterpart they may have to close the exhibit and abandon conservation efforts pertaining to the Tasmanian devil, placing them back on the endangered species list.