Field notes from the past (12): The Tiger

…He told me many stories of the Thylacine or Native Tiger, which is more abundant here than in any other part of the island, and takes a considerably yearly toll from the flocks of sheep. Since this carnivorous Marsupial is regularly hunted and trapped by the shepherds, and since it occurs only in the little island of Tasmania, it will not be very long before it becomes extinct, so that I was very careful to gain any information I could with regard to its habits. […] It hunts by night, and generally singly, but occasionally a family of three or four will form a kind of pack. The lair is in the forest, either in an old stump or cave, but the Tiger’s favourite hunting grounds are the open plains between the forests and especially on the large sheep runs in the Lake District. […] It is remarkable that these two carnivorous Marsupials [the tiger and the Tasmanian devil] should be confined to Tasmania: their bones in a recent fossil condition have been found in New South Wales and Victoria, so that its range was formerly much wider than now. It is supposed that the advent of the Dingo in Australia, which probably came over with the conquering blacks from Malaysia, exterminated the reign of the Tiger and Devil on the mainland…

– G Smith, 1909

Recent and old sightings in Australia of what could be Tasmanian tigers have triggered the preparation of a major effort to “resurrect” the now considered extinct species. The installation of over 50 camera traps will take place in the following months not only to look for the Tiger but also to obtain useful information about other major fauna.

Past and present reports of supposed encounters with the also-called thylacines are full of details that are not consistent with other Australian large species, like dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs. All sightings of these animals have been at night and even a small pack of four individuals has been reported. These, together with detailed descriptions of the aspect and size of these mysterious animals, make up an amazing match with the characteristics of a Tasmanian Tiger.

Even though there is only a minute probability of finding thylacines alive in modern times it is amazing to at least have the hope of witnessing what could be one of the most amazing (re)discoveries of the last decades.

 

Some media coverage:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/28/tasmanian-tiger-sighting-search-thylacine-queensland-australia?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/24/scientists-hunt-extinct-tasmanian-tiger-sightings-australia/

http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/australia/have-tasmanian-tigers-been-found-on-the-mainland.aspx

Cover image from the reference, originally drawn by Bayzand.

Reference:

– Smith GW. (1909). A naturalist in Tasmania. Clarendon Press. Oxford. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/111786#page/7/mode/1up

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