Science

Tasmanian Tiger may not be extinct. New sightings spark hunt

Tasmanian Tiger

It’s been almost a century since the last Tasmanian Tiger died in captivity. Could they now have returned?

A team of researchers are embarking on a mission to Northern Queensland after a string of what they call ‘credible sightings‘ of the animal.

A print of the animals which was first published in Louisa Anne Meredith's 1880 Tasmanian friends and foes: feathered, furred and finned. Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

A print of the animals which was first published in Louisa Anne Meredith’s 1880 Tasmanian friends and foes: feathered, furred and finned. Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

The Tasmanian Tiger is a marsupial, meaning that it carries its young in a pouch. It is largely dog-like in appearance, but had a long, kangaroo-like tail, an elongated snout and gape, as well as its distinctive markings which earned it its nickname.

The ‘proper’ term for this creature is a thylacine, and the last one is thought to have died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. All remaining wild thylacines were hunted to extinction. Or at least, that’s what has been thought up until now. The animal was officially declared extinct in 1986 but thousands of sightings have since been reported. Footage has been submitted, but much of it has been dismissed. There have, however, been a number of recent sightings with enough credibility to set a team of scientists and researchers from the James Cook University off into the wilderness to see if there is any truth to the claims.

The survey will begin on the Cape York Peninsula between April and May. Professor Bill Laurance has been in contact with several people (including a Park Ranger) who have given detailed descriptions of what appear to be thylacines . This would be even more exciting if true, due to the fact that the Tasmanian Tiger is believed to have been extinct on mainland Australia for over 2,000 years.

Tasmanian Tiger 3

Over 50 camera traps will be set in place in and around the area where the sightings took place. Leading the study is Sandra Abell, a researcher with James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, who told The Guardian;

“It is a low possibility that we’ll find thylacines, but we’ll certainly get lots of data on the predators in the area and that will help our studies in general.”

“It’s not a mythical creature. A lot of the descriptions people give, it’s not a glimpse in the car headlights. People who say they’ve actually seen them can describe them in great detail, so it’s hard to say they’ve seen anything else.

“I’m not ruling it out at all, but to actually get them on camera will be incredibly lucky.”

In a subsequent interview with NPR, Abell details the intention of the expedition.

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