ENVIRONMENT Minister Brian Wightman left for San Diego in the US early this morning to formalise the first international partnership in the Save the Devil program.
Four devils were transferred from Dubbo to the San Diego Zoo earlier this month, the first of a number of devils to be placed in overseas zoos over the next 12 months as part of a pilot project.
``The animals were selected from the insurance population of well over 600 healthy devils which are being held in a range of institutions around Australia,'' he said.
"They are no longer required for their genetic contribution to guard against the species' extinction in Australia and will be used instead to publicise the Tasmanian devil and its fight against the deadly devil facial tumour disease on a world stage.
"San Diego Zoo is one of the world's best zoos . . . and there are likely to be significant benefits for . . . increasing the potential for fund-raising support for the program.
"Millions of people go through San Diego Zoo each year - it has great capacity to raise awareness of the devil's plight,'' he said.
Mr Wightman said that the international awareness of the plight of the endangered Tasmanian icon would be heightened with the opening of the San Diego Zoo's Tasmanian devil exhibit on Thursday.
San Diego Zoo had a proven track record on species conservation management and was committed to delivering practical benefits for conservation activities in Australia, he said.
The initiative will be trialled at San Diego and Albuquerque zoos in the US and three zoos in New Zealand before a possible expansion to other reputable zoos in the US, Europe and Asia and all devils will remain the property of Tasmania.
A spokesman for Mr Wightman said that the trip was being paid for by San Diego Zoo and there would be no cost to the Tasmanian taxpayer.