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The Thylacine

The Thylacine, Thylacinus cynocephalus, is also called the Tasmanian Tiger and the Tasmanian Wolf.  It was the biggest Carnivorous marsupial when Europeans first settled in Australia in 1778.  The average weight of this animal was around 30 Kilograms.  This is as big as a good sized Dog.  If cornered by a Dog,  the Thylacines would kill the Dog.  They had very powerful jaws.

Range

Before Humans settled in Australia, perhaps 40,000 years ago, the Thylacine’s range was the whole of the Australian mainland and Tasmania.

After Dingos were introduced, the Thylacine became extinct on the mainland.  This was probably about 2000 tears ago.  Dingos were not taken to Tasmania.  The People on Tasmania also did not tend to use fire for hunting;  Thylacines survived until the Europeans started killing them.
However, the impication that the Thylacine was unable to compete with the Dingo may be a gross over simplification.

The Thylacine was a top predator, and as is usual with top predators it was not present in large concentrations.  In fact there might only have been about 3000 in Tasmania.

Scapegoat

There were a lot of feral dogs in Tasmania.  They killed chickens and Sheep.  The Thylacine got the blame.

There is a famous photograph of a Thylacine with a chicken in its mouth.  This picture was a total fake.

Hunting

These animals were feared by the Europeans in Tasmania.  The Thylacines were also believed to take domestic animals like poultry, sheep and cattle.  The Government paid a bounty for their scalps.  The government stopped the bounty in 1910, but a private one continued until 1914.

The most recent recorded killing of one of these animals was in 1930.  Another one was caught in 1933.

Benjamin

Suposedly the last known Thylacine was called Benjamin.  This is frequenbtly stated although there is considerable doubt about the accuracy of the name.  She died of neglect in a zoo in Hobart in 1936, two months after this species was given legal protection.

In 1986, fifty years after the last fully authenticated Thylacine died, the species was declared officially extinct.

Released on the Mainland?

In 1912, there was a plan to release Thylacines on Wilson’s promontory in Victoria on the Australia mainland.  There is no record of it actually being done.

Could They Still Exist?

Many people, including me, would like to think so, but I have to admit that it is unlikely.

However, Australia is a big country.  Although the population is now larger than the country can easily support a large majority of these people are in the cities and towns.  There are still many places where people rarely go.

Sightings

There have been a large number of Thylacine sightings since 1936.  Most of these can be dismissed as being almost certainly misidentifications.

But there are others that cannot be so easily dismissed.  Curiously there are about as many of these apparently more reliable sightings on the mainland as there are in Tasmania.

The mainland sightings seem to be concentrated in two areas.  One is the Portland area of Victoria.  This is some distance from the area considered for the release of them in 1912, but they could have moved or spread in the intervening years, or they could have been released at a different point.

The other area is in the southwest of Western Australia.

There have been several tantalising videos made of some of the apparent Thylacines, but having watched them closely, I have to consider them to be inconclusive.

Sources

http://australianmuseum.net.au/The-Thylacine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEdcMjcFASA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwOMoC40q6k&feature=related

http://wasg.iinet.net.au/ntday.html

http://www.authorsden.com/categories/article_top.asp?catid=81&id=50950

http://www.scribd.com/doc/31193196/Magnificent-Survivor-re-Thylacine-3-4

http://cryptoworld.co.uk/4-new-thylacine-sightings-in-3-months/

http://www.messybeast.com/extinct/thylacine.htm

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thylacine
By G.J. Broinowski, after Henry Constantine Richter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

An illustration of "Tasmanian Tiger", Thylacinus cynocephalus. The lithograph is after H. C. Richter's illustration in The Mammals of Australia (Gould) (1845-1863).