Biology

Back from the dead? Sightings lure scientists in search of Tasmanian tiger

Back from the dead? Sightings ...
Scientists will set up more than 50 camera traps to try and catch the Tasmanian tiger in action
Scientists will set up more than 50 camera traps to try and catch the Tasmanian tiger in action
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Scientists will set up more than 50 camera traps to try and catch the Tasmanian tiger in action
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Scientists will set up more than 50 camera traps to try and catch the Tasmanian tiger in action

It has been more that 80 years since the last Tasmania tiger died in captivity, but there are a few parties that suspect this carnivorous marsupial still roams the Australian outback after dark. Among those are scientists from James Cook University, who are preparing a field survey on the very northern tip of Queensland in hopes of catching the nocturnal creature in action.

The thylacine, more commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, was hunted to extinction by European settlers, who feared that the striped, wolf-like animals posed a threat to livestock. But in the decades since the last known-specimen died in a Hobart Zoo in 1936, there have been thousands of reported sightings and whispers of the tiger's survival have continued to circulate.

In 2005, local magazine The Bulletin offered a AU$1.25 million reward for the capture of a live and uninjured Tasmanian tiger. In 2013, investigators from Britain's Centre for Fortean Zoology set out to find the animal, claiming to have gathered compelling evidence of its existence, including eye-witness accounts and droppings that it may have left behind. And tracking the Tasmanian tiger has even become a tourist attraction of sorts, with lodges, such as Tassie Tiger Lodge, running expeditions in search of the elusive predator.

For the James Cook University researchers, the motivation came from lengthy discussions with people in far-north Queensland claiming to have spotted the animals in the wild. One of the witnesses is an employee of the local parks service, and the other is a frequent camper and outdoorsman. The descriptions of the animals at two separate sites include detail on eyeshine color, body size, shape, and animal behavior and are inconsistent with other large-bodied animals in the area, the scientists say.

The researchers are convinced that these accounts could be the real deal, and as soon as next month, they will venture into the field and set up more than 50 camera traps in prospective sites. While the hope is to catch the Tasmanian tiger in action, the scientists say that the survey will also be useful in gathering data on other mammal species in the area, where wildlife populations have experienced severe decline in recent years.

Source: James Cook University

12 comments
Buellrider
I saw an Ivory Billed Woodpecker riding on the back of one just last week.
jd_dunerider
I recently went to youtube in search of any recent evidence. All videos I saw were poor quality footage of mangy foxes unfortunately. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if there are some survivors out there though, hopefully they can rebound if so.
BartyLobethal
I'd like to think it still clings on in some remote pocket of the country, but I suspect it's just wishful thinking. Still, the Night Parrot was spotted in WA only a couple of weeks ago, where it hadn't been seen for 50 years, so there's some slender hope.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think it would be cool if they survived and increased in numbers.
Ralf Biernacki
If the sightings are true, the critter showed up on the opposite end of the country from where it was being looked for (Northern Queensland, rather than Tasmania). That might explain why it wasn't found in the meantime. Still very slim chance, IMHO.
ljaques
Yeah, a pair managed to live so you put out a $1.25M reward for _one_, removing it from its mate and ensuring the species extinction beyond the shadow of a doubt. Utterly _brilliant_, Bulletin.
TJG
Freederick, Wikipedia says they were native to Australia as well as Tasmania and New Guinea, although they became very rare on the mainland, and concentrated on Tasmania, before the English arrived.
MattII
Well down here in NZ the Takahe were though to be extinct for 50 years, so I suppose it's a possibility. Be good if it was true.
ThomasZaccone
"Yeah, a pair managed to live so you put out a $1.25M reward for _one_, removing it from its mate and ensuring the species extinction beyond the shadow of a doubt. Utterly _brilliant_, Bulletin" Excellent point. I wish they did survive and can be brought back like many species. But when the population level sinks below a certain point, genetic inbreeding can do them in.
ezeflyer
If they still have the DNA of the last one that died in captivity, they could bring the species back.