Long-lost video of extinct Tasmanian tiger found in film archive
The Tasmanian tiger may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. New footage of the extinct marsupial has emerged from the vault of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), showing the last known member of the species in a dingy cage.
Clocking in at just 21 seconds, the new video shows a thylacine pacing around its cage in Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Tasmania. Two men can be seen rattling the cage on the right.
It’s believed that this clip is the last ever filmed of Benjamin, the last surviving Tasmanian tiger. The existing famous video of him was shot in December 1933, while the newly discovered clip dates to 1935. That places it just a year or so before poor Benjamin’s death in September 1936.
The clip was taken from a travelogue titled Tasmania The Wonderland, which outlined some of the attractions of the island state for visitors. As the narrator makes clear, Benjamin was the only thylacine in captivity at the time, and the species was considered rare in the wild, but they likely didn’t realize that they had the very last one on their hands.
The clip was recently discovered in the NFSA vault, and then digitized in 4K and released online. Altogether, only a little over three minutes of video still exists of the thylacine today. It’s all in black and white, with no known color video or sound recordings of the carnivorous marsupial ever found.
“The scarcity of thylacine footage makes every second of moving image really precious,” says NFSA curator Simon Smith. “We're very excited to make this newly-digitized footage available to everyone online.”
Hunted to extinction by the first European settlers in Australia, the thylacine is a cautionary tale of conservationism. But recent genetic studies have suggested that the species was already in decline before humans got there. And some believe that the creature is still with us, with numerous (but unverified) sightings persisting to this day.