Thylacine


Louisa Anne Meredith, 'Tasmanian Tiger', 1880 (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

The Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) or Tasmanian Tiger both fascinated and scared early settlers. Although it was considered a threat to flocks, some settlers conceded the thylacine was blamed for many sheep killings whose real culprit was feral dogs. Private and state bounty schemes existed between 1830 and 1909, despite awareness among scientists and community members of the Tiger's growing scarcity and potential extinction. The 1928 Animals and Birds Protection Act listed the Tiger on the 'wholly unprotected' schedule, and it was not 'wholly protected' until 10 July 1936, only 59 days before it became officially extinct when the last known tiger died in the Beaumaris Zoo. In 1979 the National Parks and Wildlife Service conducted a thylacine study, analysing records of tiger sightings since presumed extinction. Despite a credible sighting in 1982, further searches have failed to produce photographic or other evidence of the continued existence of the thylacine. It is currently listed as 'Presumed to be Extinct'. (See also Fauna.)

Further reading: R Paddle, The last Tasmanian tiger, Cambridge, 2000; E Guiler, Thylacine, Melbourne, 1985.

Rachel Hibberd