Scientists Launch Search For The Supposedly Extinct Tasmanian Tiger

A pair of Thylacines, a male and female, received by Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. in 1902. Baker; EJ Keller/The Smithsonian Institution/Public Domain

Many Australians think that present-day sightings of the Tasmanian tiger – aka the thylacine – are on a par with seeing the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Nevertheless, the past few years have brought numerous credible sightings of this supposedly extinct creature.

To try and finally separate the fact from the myth, a group of scientists is preparing to launch a search for the Tasmanian tiger deep in the far north of Queensland, Australia.

Scientists from James Cook University will place 50 camera traps baited with lures to collect information on two sites in north Queensland. The cameras will be able to detect all species, so regardless of whether they actually spot a Tasmanian tiger, the researchers have said the data will be put to good use. The field work will begin in April this year.

The last Tasmanian tiger, known as Benjamin, is believed to have died at Hobart Zoo on the island of Tasmania in September 1936 (video below). With a head like a wolf, a striped body like a tiger, and a pouch like a wombat, these marsupials were proud apex predators that once roamed across mainland Australia and Tasmania. 

Historical footage of the last Thylacines at Beaumaris Zoo in December 1933

Archeologists have found engravings depicting thylacines in the Aboriginal rock art of mainland Australia from at least 3,000 years ago. It's thought they went extinct from the continent’s mainland around 2,000 years ago, largely due to the invasive species of the dingo. Although early European colonizers noted their numbers were slim, the thylacine managed to cling on in Tasmania until the 20th century. Even in their isolation on the island, their numbers fell to dismal proportions due to continued competition from dingos and overhunting by humans. Eventually, by 1936, they were supposedly no more left in the wild or in captivity.

Although early European colonizers noted their numbers were slim, the thylacine managed to cling on in Tasmania until the 20th century. In their isolation on the island, their numbers fell to dismal proportions due to continued competition from dingos and overhunting by humans. Eventually, by 1936, they were supposedly no more left in the wild or in captivity.

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