Unlike the majority of cryptids the Thylacine, also known as The Tasmanian Tiger, is scientifically documented and cataloged as a real, thought now extinct, creature which lived in Australia up until about 12,000 years ago. The Tasmanian Tiger closely resembled a dog, but was actually a carnivorous marsupial belonging to the same family as the kangaroo and Tasmanian devil.
The male Thylacine would reach 6 feet in length from head to tail and weigh upwards of 45 pounds while the females where slightly smaller. The fur of the Thylacine was coarse and sandy brown until about mid back where distinctive stripes began. These stripes, like those of a tiger, ran down to the tail, which was long, thin, inflexible and did not wag.
Like other marsupials the Thylacine had pouches in which they carried their young. The opening of these pouches faced towards the rear of the animal, rather than towards the head, like the Kangaroo.
Thylacines often hunted in pairs as they did not boost great run speed, but compensated that with excellent stamina and often exhausted its prey through constant chase. Using powerful elongated jaws with a huge gape that could crush the skulls of its victims the Thylacine hunted many different animals, including the powerful kangaroo. Thylacines showed no fear when cornered, and would often kill several tracking dogs before brought down.
The Thylacines normally did not make any sound, though sometimes would make a quick double yip noise, no known recording of this noise exists. Thylacines were primarily nocturnal animals and little is known about their social habits.
From shot and captured specimens it seems that a typical Thylacine litter was 3 or 4 pups which spent the early portion of there lives in the mothers pouch. Thylacines that were captured alive and put into captivity often died quickly, but some survived up to 13 years. They did not make great attractions at the zoos, caged Thylacines often where very sluggish and did not respond to affection from their human caretakers.
The Thylacine remained the dominate predator in Australia until the faster dingo appeared on the Australian mainland. It did not take long for the dingo to decimate the Thylacine population, with the only surviving members of the species being left on the island of Tasmania. When farmers moved to Tasmania in the early 1800s, the Thylacines began to kill prey on the livestock of these farmers and where seen as nothing more than pests. These livestock killings lead to a systematic slaughter of the Thylacines, with bounties being rewarded for each scalp turned in.
By the early 1900s Thylacines were rare creatures, and the last scalp bounty was paid in 1909. The last reported killing of a Tasmanian Tiger was in 1930. The Thylacine was given protected status in 1933, but by that time it was too late, the last Thylacine found alive was captured and sent to the Hobart Domain Zoo just two months after the rare animal became a protected species.
This last Thylacine, named Benjamin, died on September 7, 1936 after just 3 years in captivity. The people of Australia and Tasmania mourned the loss of the last Tasmanian Tiger, and placed the now extinct animal on its official Coat of Arms. But was Benjamin the last of the Thylacine?
Soon after Benjamin's death, reports of Thylacine sightings came in from the mountains of northwestern Tasmania. Australia's Animals and Birds Protection Board sent an investigative team into the area but all they came back with were some interesting reports from the inhabitants of the area. Interest was high and another expedition that was sent in 1938 found the first evidence of living Thylacines, footprints that were positively identified as belonging to Thylacines. After this expedition, World War II intervened and the next expedition did not take place until 1945.
This privately funded expedition found Thylacine footprints and collected more sighting reports. In 1957 zoologist Eric R. Guiler, chairman of the Animals and Birds Protection Board, went to Broadmarsh to investigate the killing of some sheep by an unknown predator. Tracks were found that were identified as Thylacine prints. But no Thylacine where found. Several more expeditions followed between 1957 and 1966, but these produced only more footprints and more reports of sightings from the local residents.
In 1968 the Tasmania Tiger Center was established, to which people could report their Thylacine sightings. Expeditions continued to beat the brush in the wild lands of Tasmania searching for a remnant population of Thylacines. In the 1970s the World Wildlife Fund set up several automatic camera units at locations where sightings of the Thylacine were often concentrated. Bait was set and infrared beams were used to trigger the cameras, sadly the project ended with failure in 1980, no Thylacines were captured on film.
In his official report, project leader Steven J. Smith of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, stated his view that the Thylacines is extinct. Zoologist Eric Guiler later set up his own hidden camera operation, but this attempt to capture a living Thylacine on film also ended in failure.
Despite the lack of photographic evidence the number of reported sightings shot up between 1970 and 1980, 104 documented sightings total. This gave investigators new hope of finding the Thylacines still surviving in the more remote areas of Tasmania. Reports of living Thylacines also began to come in from southwestern Western Australia, which was very strange as the Thylacines were eliminated from mainland Australia thousands of years ago.
On a rainy night in March of 1982 a NPWS park ranger was sleeping in the back seat of his car when something woke him up. He turned on his spotlight and turned it onto an animal about 20 feet away. The ranger reported what he saw was a Thylacine, "an adult male in excellent condition, with 12 black stripes on a sandy coat." The creature quickly ran off into near by brush, its footprints and all other evidence washed away by the rain.
In order to keep people from going to the area of this sighting and disturbing a possible habitat of the last living Thylacines, the NPWS kept this report from the public until January 1984. This sighting did not prove the existence of living Thylacines to the government's satisfaction though, and no official statement was issued.
Following the rash of Thylacine sightings in Western Australia, the state's Agricultural Protection Board sent Kevin Cameron, a tracker of aboriginal descent, to investigate. Soon Cameron reported that he himself sighted and identified a living Thylacine in Western Australia, but again a simple sighting was not proof enough. Then in 1985 Cameron produced pictures that he claimed where taken of a living Thylacine, along with casts of Thylacine footprints. The pictures showed a dog like animal burrowing at the base of the tree.
The head was hidden from view, but its striped back and stiff tail strongly implied that it was a Thylacine. As these pictures began to spread around the scientific community suspicions began to arise. Cameron would not say where he took the pictures, and would not give permission to have the pictures reproduced for publication. Eventually agreeing, the pictures were presented to zoologist Athol M. Douglas at the Western Australian Museum in Perth. Cameron accompanied Douglas to a photographic laboratory while he made enlargements. Douglas would later report:
"When I saw the negatives, I realized Cameron's account with regard to the photographs was inaccurate. The film had been cut, frames were missing, and the photos were taken from different angles, making it impossible for the series to have been taken in 20 or 30 seconds, as Cameron had stated. Furthermore, in one negative, there was the shadow of another person pointing what could be a 12 gauge shotgun; Cameron stated that he had been alone. It would have been practically impossible for an animal as alert as a Thylacine to remain stationary for so long while human activity was going on in its vicinity. In addition, it is significant that the animal's head does not appear in any of the photographs."
The story and pictures were released in the New Scientist magazine, and its readers were soon criticizing the authenticity of the photographs. They pointed out that the animal seemed to stay dead still from photograph to photograph. And they realized by the differing lengths of the shadows that the pictures were taken over at least an hour. It would seem that the pictures were a hoax, and the specimen was a stuffed Thylacine. But the first picture, the one that showed the shadow of a person holding a gun aimed at the Thylacine, was omitted from the New Scientist story. Douglas feels that,
"The full frame of this negative is the one which shows the shadow of the man with a rigid gun like object pointing in the direction of the Thylacine at the base of the tree. This shadow was deliberately excluded in the photos published in New Scientist. If I am correct in this supposition, the Thylacine was alive when the first photo was taken, but had been dead, and frozen in rigor mortis, for several hours by the time the second photograph was taken."
Douglas hoped that the carcass would surface, but that is doubtful since shooting a Thylacine is punishable by a $5000 fine and Cameron was not being helpful in shedding any further light on it. Either it was a hoax using a stuffed Thylacine, or a living Thylacine was shot, then frozen and later used to take photographs. The fact that the head is not in any of the photographs may be because the animal was shot in the head, if they were using a stuffed Thylacine, then why hide the head?
In 1966 an expedition from the Western Australia Museum found a Thylacine carcass in a cave near Mundrabilla Station. Carbon dating showed the carcass to be 4,500 years old, but that method of dating may be invalid since the body had been soaking in groundwater. Zoologist Athol Douglas reported that along with the Thylacine carcass, they also found a dingo carcass and that the dingo carcass was much more deteriorated than the Thylacine carcass.
Douglas gave his opinion that the dingo carcass was not older than 20 years, and that the Thylacine carcass was not older than a year. But since the carbon dating argues against a recent death of this Thylacine, official proof of surviving Thylacines still does not exist.
Cryptozoological investigator Rex Gilroy has collected various reports of Thylacine sightings from over a wide area of the rugged eastern Australian mountain ranges, from far north Queensland through New South Wales to eastern Victoria. Casts of footprints found in those areas have been verified as Thylacine prints. Gilroy even claims to have seen a Thylacine himself. Diving at night with a friend along a highway towards the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, something dashed out of the scrub along the highway and ran in front of them.
It then stopped and stared back at the headlights for a few seconds before running off into the scrub, towards Grose Valley. It was "almost the size of a full grown Alsatian dog, with fawn-colored fur and a row of blackish stripes. I have no doubt that it was a Thylacine; its appearance matched that of stuffed specimens preserved in Government museums."
Another Park Ranger reported seeing a Thylacine in 1990. Ranger Peter Simon was in the Namadgi-Kosciusco National Park along the New South Wales Victoria border when he saw what he identified as a Thylacine in broad daylight at a range of 100 feet. After Peter Simon published an article on his sighting and the Thylacine mystery in The Age magazine, he received many cards and letters from Victoria residents who also claimed to have seen Thylacines. Peter Simon said that the reports were so consistent that they, left me in no doubt that each had seen something unusual and broadly consistent with the appearance of a Thylacine."
Australian writer Tony Healy reported that on the day before Ranger Peter Simon was to have his encounter with a Thylacine, his hunting dogs refused to leave a truck that they were being transported in after they heard strange harsh panting sounds in the brush nearby.
At a Benedictine monastery named New Hoacia, the secretary to the Abbot, Tony James, walked into a room early in the morning and saw a Thylacine, "We both froze, and he looked at me, in quite a fearless way, and I sense that he was just simply filled with curiosity at the sighting."
The animal fled. Tony feels that perhaps the animal was feeding off the table scraps that were usually left out for the magpies every morning. Another member of the monastery also reported seeing an animal that fit the description of a Thylacine while driving from the monastery.
To this day sightings of the Tasmanian Tiger, though rare, are still being reported. Being such a unique looking creature it would be difficult to mistake the Thylacine for any other creature known to live on the island of Tasmania, ruling out mistaken identity as the explanation for these sightings. What we are left with is a compelling story of survival, one that would suggest an animal once thought to be extinct, could still be roaming the country side of Tasmania.
There is no solid physical evidence that would suggest that the Thylacine still exists. Still, a debatable carcass, footprint molds and eye witness reports are enough to keep us believing that perhaps this unique creature is still alive, in small numbers, waiting to make a come back.
In 1957 zoologist Eric R. Guiler, chairman of the Animals and Birds Protection Board, went to Broadmarsh to investigate the killing of some sheep by an unknown predator. Tracks were found that were identified as Thylacine prints.
March of 1982 a NPWS park ranger was sleeping in the back seat of his car when something woke him up. He turned on his spotlight and turned it onto an animal about 20 feet away. The ranger reported what he saw was a Thylacine, "an adult male in excellent condition, with 12 black stripes on a sandy coat." The creature quickly ran off into near by brush.
In 1982 a Western Australian farming couple claimed to have lost livestock to Thylacine predation.
In 1985, Kevin Cameron, a tracker of aboriginal descent, produced pictures that he claimed where taken of a living Thylacine. He also proved casts of Thylacine footprints. The pictures showed a dog like animal burrowing at the base of the tree. The head was hidden from view, but its striped back and stiff tail strongly implied that it was a Thylacine. These pictures have been the subject of much debate but are widely believed to be fakes.
In 1966, an expedition from the Western Australia Museum found a Thylacine carcass in a cave near Mundrabilla Station. Carbon dating showed the carcass to be 4,500 years old, but that method of dating may be invalid since the body had been soaking in groundwater. Zoologist Athol Douglas reported that along with the Thylacine carcass, they also found a dingo carcass and that the dingo carcass was much more deteriorated than the Thylacine carcass. Douglas gave his opinion that the dingo carcass was not older than 20 years, and that the Thylacine carcass was not older than a year. But since the carbon dating argues against a recent death of this Thylacine, official proof of surviving Thylacines still does not exist.
In 1982 a Western Australian farming couple claimed to have lost livestock to Thylacine predation.
In 1990, Ranger Peter Simon was in the Namadgi-Kosciusco National Park along the New South Wales Victoria border when he saw what he identified as a Thylacine in broad daylight at a range of 100 feet.
The Stats - (Where applicable)
Size: Up to 6 Feet From Nose To Tail
Weight: About 45 55 Pounds
Diet: Carnivorous, manly Kangaroos, Wallabies, Wombats and Birds
Location: The Island of Tasmania, and Isolated Reports From Western Australia
Environment: Dry Eucalyptus Forests, Wetlands, Grasslands and More Recently the Seclusion of Mountainous Region