Track of the tiger

Track of the tiger
There is some gold in here !

Track of the tiger
Call Number
Nq 919.4 WAL
Melbourne : Australian National Travel Association, 1934-1978
Vol. 39 No. 8 (1 August 1973)



(By Our Special Reporter.)
Anyone fond of strange animals and birds can spend a delightful afternoon
at Beaumaris, the well-known residence of Mrs Roberts, Montpelier-
road, whose beautiful collection has been thrown open to the public on so
many occasions for charitable purposes Mrs. Rberts is always looking out for novelties, and she has just
been fortunate enough to secure a fine specimen of a Tasmanian tiger and a whole litter of Tasmanian devils, all
of which are great rarities, and very seldom seen outside their native haunts. Responding to a kind invita-
tion on the part of Mrs. Roberts, a representative of "The Daily Post"called ro und on Saturday afternoon,
and was shown the new treasures.The Tas manian tiger, which is about the size of a  wolf, was lying down in
its cage, and looked a very graceful object, with its pretty black stripes on its brown woolly fur, its head like
that of an intelligent dog, short point-ed ears , slender tail, and gazelle-like eyes. Its scientific name is Thylacinus
cynocephalus, the dog-headed pouch-bearer or marsupial, but its popular names—such as tiger, hyena,
zebra opossum, and zebra wolf—are all derived from its stripes.
The marsupials, like the mammalia of which they are a group, are divided into meat-eaters and vegetarians. The
Tasmanian tiger belongs to the former, and is the largest carnivorous marsupial known. At one time it was
very common in different parts of Tasmania, but it is now getting very scarce, although it may still be seen
on the button grass plains of the West and North-West Coasts to fairly large numbers. Its nearest existing relation
is the North American opossum, but fossil remains of it have been found in Australia, showing that it
once existed there many centuries ago. One great peculiarity about it is that it does not possess the marsupial
bones that are found in nearly all other marsupials, these being reduced in its case to small cartilages. For that,
as for other reasons, it is of extreme interest to scientists, and has been ever since its existence was first made
known in the early part of last century. There are many points of resemblance between the dentition of the
Tasmanian tiger and that of the opossums, to which the Tasmanian devils also belong, the incisors of both jaws
being arranged so as to form a segment of a circle, the outermost beingthe largest and the innermost the
smallest, and closely resembling those of the dog. The tiger is said to dwell among the rivers and rocks In the
deep and almost impenetrable glens in the neighborhood of the most mountainous parts of Tasmania, where it
preys on the bush kangaroo and other small animals which there abound.According to Lieutenant Gunn, who
contributed some interesting notes to the "Naturalists' Library" more than 50 years ago, the tiger often attacks
sheep in the night, but during the daytime, when its vision is imperfect, its pace is slow. Before going away, I
gave the dog-beaded marsupial one more glance, but he heeded me not,and still reclined lazily at the bottom
of his cage, his gazelle-Iike eyes staring dreamily into space, as if conjuring up the sylvan scenes of his former

Useless Tasmanian Tiger

Sir,—Mr. Stevenson is to be con- gratulated in adopting the right attitude towards the useless Tasmanian tiger. From the past experience of early settlers this relentless destroyer of sheep, pigs, fowls, young calves, and even young horses, should be abso
lutely exterminated, and let its skeleton be the only thing left in our museums to remind us of its depredations. To "protect" it, and allow it to breed in the Cradle Reserve—or any other reserve—is extremely dangerous. If there were no wallabies or kangaroosto be had for its food, it would soon travel down to the sheep and cattle
runs and adjoining farms and help itself to whatever may be available.\Fancy actually "protecting" a villainous and repugnant animal of this type. It would be a good thing if
the species did become extinct, evenat the risk of upsetting the balance
of nature.

Snaring Tasmanian tigers

By K.M.N.
The subject of capturing wild creatures
b.v cunning and ingenuity has au attraction
for a great many people, and the following
description of the principal traps and snares
in use amongst Tasmanian bushmen may
prove of interest. The forms shown are the
ones upon which the prospector or bushman
depends for his fresh meat, and the pro
fessional trapper for his skins, and, with
the exception of the nooses, they are made
of materials obtainable in any patch of
scrub. Many parts of the West Coast of
.Tasmania are even at the present day quite
uninhabited, and the traveller in them has
always to carry his "flicker' on his back.
This consists, in most eases, of bacon, flour,
and oatmeal, a diet, which, if continued,
generallj^produces a craving for fresh meat
of any kind.' The bushman therefore car
ries a few bails of white bemp in his swag,
and with this, assisted by an axe and a
knife, he is able to construct remarkably
efficient (raps and snares, which easily pro
cure for him all tbe meat he needs
It is generally known as the
"springer," and is a variation of, and a
great improvement upon, the "springe" of
the English poacher. It is used principally
for catching kangaroo and wallaby, but
may be adapted to take any kind of animal,
even the native tiger.
lis construction' is easily understood
from the sketch. A stout stick, about an
inch and a half in diameter, is driven into
the ground, on the edge of the "run," and
a nick out upon the side. A straight branch
about 2ft. long is then cut, with a twig pro
jecting from the thickest end. This is for
the "treader," as it is termed. A nick is
cut in it about -tin. from the projecting
twig. A "button," about 3in. or 4in. long,
of the same diameter as the "treader" is
nest procured, and pared down to a flat
point at each end. A groove is cut round
the middle. Then a pliant sapling, 6ft. or
7ft. long, is cut, and carefully trimmed of
branches, except at the top, where half an
inch or so of twig is left to keep the snare
from slipping off. This is pointed at one
end. and thrust into the ground at an angle
of about 45 degrees, so that its end, when
it is bent down, projects a few inches over
the stake driven into the ground. The snare
is made into the noose-form, and the end
tied firmly to the top of the sapling ori
"springer." The snare is then lied round!
the groove in the button by a "clove- j
bitch." about 6in. from the snringer. The]
trap is now ready to set The end of thel
springer is taken under the left armpit and
bent down, and the ends of the button]
placed in the nicks in the stake and the;
treader. which latter hook6 round the
sfake and projects into the run. The
pressure on the springer is then gradually
 The wallaby or kan
garoo comes hopping along the run, finds
the piece of wood in his way, and jumps
over it, touching the treader and pressing
it down. This disengages "the end of the
button, and allowB the springer to fly up,
tightening the noose round the legs of the
game, which remains tethered until
the trapper comes ' along and knocks
it on the head. This is probably
 the simplest and most efficient traps.. The writer has caught kangaroos,
Wallabies, opossums, black magpies,The stake
is then driven -in a few inches further back
l from the run. The other parts are then
easily, fitted together.
Fig. 2 shows what is known as the "neck
snare." It is extremely simple, but re
markably efficient, and is generally used in
places that are too overgrown to allow of a
springer being employed. -
It is an adaptation of the "wire" the Eng
lish poacher sets in hedgerows for rabbits
and hares, and consists of a stout stake,
pointed, and driven into the ground beside
the run, until about 2ft. projects. " A
groove is cut round the top, and the snare,
made as described above, tied tightly round i
it. The snare, of course, is first formed
j into a noose. A forked twig is then |
j lightly stuck in the ground on the other
side of the run, and the noose hung over
it, as shown. When the kangaroo or wal
I laky comes along he puts his head and
generally one fore-leg through stke noose,!
which tightens up. The forked stick falls,
over, and the game remains fast. This ,
snare is sometimes used for wombats, or
"oadgers," as they are usually called, but I
unless the snare is made of wire they gener
ally bite it through and escape. They are
so powerful, too, that they will often pull
the stake out of the grouud or break the
snare. Kangaroos and wallabies neverl
bite the snare through,.though they could
easily do so. They sometimes pull the
springer out. but in that case nearly always
dash themselves to pieces in their frantic
efforts to escape from the thjpg they are
pulling after them. Wallabies are some
times caught by the tail in springers, which
causes tlicui to perform acrobatic {eats that
would make a .grasshopper envjons.
Fig. ;! represents a very ingenious and
highly satisfactory trap for tiger-cats,
native eats,- bash rate, . and vermin
of that kind. It . requires an empty
21b. pieserved-meat tin, a springer,
a short snare, and a few bits of stick, ar
ticles which are always procurable round
any camp. Its construction will be under
stood from the illustration, but it requires
a little more care in putting together than
the traps previously described.
The ineat-tin should have the rough edgCE
where it ha? been cut open beaten down
smoothly. A small hole is then made near
the open end with a nail, and a larger one,
about fin. in diameter, at the bottom, in a
straight line with it. This larger hole may
be made with the point of a pick, or com
menced with a penknife and enlarged with
a piece of hardwood cut to a point. A
springer, about 6ft. or 6ft. long, is thrust
into the ground, dnd the place where the
top end comes when bent over marked.
Here the tin is placed, with the holes upper
most, and the open end poiniiugaway £pom
;the springer. It is held down by two
sticks, about Oft inch invliaoicter, each witft
a projecting twig like a hook, driven m one
on each side. A short piece of stick paBscs
under the Wigs and over the tin. these
hooked sticks must be firmly driven in, and
the crosspiece made to come down tightly
on the tin.
A bait-stick is next cut. with a project
ing twig. A nidt is cut in the largest end,
which is passed through the larger hole in
the tin. .The twig prevents it pulling
through the hole," ana to the other end,
which should Peach about three-quarters of
the way down, the bait is fastened. Another
stick, long enough to reach from the nail
hole to the nick in > the bait-stick is then
cut, a groove made round one end, and
the other out to p flat point. The grooved
end is tied to the n&ilhole with a piece of
string, the free partof which should be t he
same length as^rOiU the top of the tin to
the top of the nick in the bait-stick. A
short snare, which will make a noose some
what laiger than the end of the tin, is tied
to the springer, anda loop of strong string
»s fastened a few idbhes further back. A
piece of bait, usuaUybacou, is tied to the
bait-stick, the nicked end of which is put
through thethole"at the further end of the
tiu. ^The springer is then bent down, and
the short, piece of stick passed through the
loop of cord,* and the flattened end put
.into the nick of the bait-stick and held
I there, while the pressure on the springer
is gradually eased. The upward pull of
the springer will then cause it to hold. The
noose should be arranged round the mouth
of the tin, so that it wiR catch nothing
when it flies up, and the contrivance is
ready for business. • The quarry puts its
Jiead into the tin to pull out the bait, and
TiSso doing causes the top end of the bait
stioRsto bend backwards. This disengages
tkfci small stick from the nick, and it flies
\upwitp the pfit! Of "the springer, the loop
slips, and the noose tightens
rotimL-rhe neck'Of the victim, and, lifting
jtynjnn the air, strangles it in a very short
^"ror capturingsuch creatures as the tiger
eat, no more efficient contrivance could be
devised. This animal, scientifically known
as Daeyurus maculatus, is the chief pest cf,
FIG. (.

FIG. (.
the West Coast. It knows neither fear nor
satiety. It is always ravenous, and is very
impartial in its tastes. Bacon, candles, fat,
ana freshly-greased boots seem to have a
special attraction for it, but very little
comes amiss. It grows to a large size, one
that the writer caught in a meat-tin trap
measuring some inches over 4ft. from the
tip of its nose to the end of its tail. To
poultry-keepers in the back settlements it
is a dreadful nuisance. Once in a fowl
houjsfc,'it will kill for. the mere pleasure of
killing, until the/Whole flock is destroyed.
When at Tyenna, the writer'6 brother once
heard a commotion in the fowl house in the
small honrs of the morning. Bunning out
with a gun, he descried in the faint light
a tiger-eat squeezing out of a hole, which
it had made by chewing off the top of one
of the hardwood slabs of which the fowl
house Was built. He let flv at it, both bar
rels of the gtin at once. The writer, roused
by the noise, ihen came on the scene with
a light, and an investigation was made. The
fowihouse was literally carpeted with dead
fowls, hensychickems, and the old paternal
rooster lay in a confused heap on the floor,
25 in all, out the murderer had disappeared.
He was found some days afterwards under
a tussock of button ~ grass. Both charges
had gone dean through him, and completely
blown his internal organs to the wind, but
8uc-h is the tenacity of life of these crea
tures that he had managed to get 200 yards
away before he fell. This was by no means
an uncommon experience in the early days
of the settlement at Tyenna, where settlers
frequently lost all their fowls in a night.
The meat-tin traps, however, soon reduced
the number oE cats. The female tiger-cat
is much smaller than the male, hardly larger
than the pfttivecat (D. viverrina), but is
even* store destructive. It seems to be very
uncommon, & dozen males being caught fhr
evert- female, Thetraps described may be
used for native cate or rats, if made on
smaller scale. They should not be set where
domestic dogs, oats, or fowls can get at

New Tasmanian Tiger facebook group

We have started a new Facebook group.
Tasmanian Tiger Archives.
This will not be dealing with modern mainland sightings.
There are other groups for that.

Andrew Pask-Thylacine DNA Specialist Q=A

Andrew Pask Associate Professor and Reader
The University of Melbourne

"Genome of the Tasmanian tiger provides insights into the evolution and demography of an extinct marsupial carnivore"

Andrew very Kindly answered questions from the worlds best Facebook thylacine page

Q/Do they have a rear opening pouch ?

Pask-Yes – a few different marsupial species that burrow have this (wombat for eg.) – presumably so they don’t fill it up with dirt while they are digging.

Q/How did the role of climate (penultimate glacial cycle) accelerate” a decline in diversity ?

Pask-During times of climate and vegetation change populations have to move – food can become scarce and this leads to a decline in animal numbers. This decline in population size often leads to a loss of genetic diversity.

Q-What are the hurdles (and possible time frame) for a cloned thylacine to become a reality?

Pask-Firstly, we cannot clone without a living cell, so the de-extinction projects are creating genomes, rather than cloning a genome. For the mammoth project scientists are using an elephant cell line and adding the changes to make it look like a mammoth genome. A similar approach would be needed for the thylacine. The closest living relative is a numbat and they are anteaters. so not an ideal genome to begin with! Devil has a closer diet. There are a LOT of hurdles. Currently genome editing on the scale needed to make a thylacine-like devil genome is not possible – but there have been huge advances in this space. If it moves forward at the same pace as next-generation sequencing technologies… then it is feasible to think that in a decade (or 2) genome editing of this scale might be possible.
The next hurdles are all associated with what to do with that cell. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are well developed for placental mammals. Think IVF. This can be done in humans and mice and livestock – but this has not been achieved yet in marsupials. Making recombinant embryos (with different cell types) is also well developed in placental mammals but has not been done in marsupials. We also don’t know a huge amount about the early development of the marsupial embryo and when best to transfer a potential embryo back into the females reproductive tract. We would have to find a good surrogate mum – for both the size of the developing young and time of gestation and pouch exit – to host the embryo. None of these hurdles are trivial.

Q-A very few species have black striped hind quarters, the numbat and the african zebra duiker for instance. These species live in very different ecological niches. Why the similar coat paterns? What is the adaptive 'purpose' of the stripes? Does it have anything to suggest about thylacine ecology/behaviour?

Pask-This is a great question that has stumped scientists for years. The short answer is – we have no idea! Stripes were thought to aid in camouflage or being cryptic while stalking prey, but some good studies in to this phenomenon have never confirmed that stripes give any advantage on that front!  So we don’t know! Probably different species have them for different reasons though.

Q-How limiting was the lack of genetic diversity? Was there specific markers for afflictions detected?

Pask-The paper we just published looked at the effective population size – estimating the number of breeding individuals – and we showed it went though a bottle neck, meaning that the numbers got very low. This goes hand-in-hand with a loss of genetic diversity (differences) in the genome. We also published a paper a few years back that did a survey of a lot of museum specimens and looked at a region of their mitochondrial DNA across a broad range of thylacines collected both before and during the bounty (when they were hunted). This confirmed a VERY low amount of genetic diversity in their DNA, even less than we currently see in the devil population which contracted the facial tumour and enables it to spread so readily. So based on a similar marsupial with a similar lack of diversity – this is our marker for population health.

Q-Where did the museum obtain it's sample?

Pask-The specimens comes from a full litter of four pouch young that were received with their mother (C5752) in 1909. All four pouch young were removed from the after their mother was killed in the wild.

Q-Firstly thank you very much Andrew for this, and obviously for your contribution to the subject. I'd like to ask something that has long confused me but which has been discussed in your paper, convergence. in the paper it says 'diet was a significant predictor of cranial shape', but as I understand it the diet as suggested by dentition of thylacines, would have been far less generalist than canids? One quick one, am I correct in understanding that your results suggest that the Thylacinidae are a sister group to the Dasyuridae, and is it the numbat or the devil that's most close to it. OK that was two. Thank you very much.

Pask-Thylacines represent a basal branch of the Dasuromorphs and the numbat is the next and closest branch to the thylacine. Ie. Its closest living relative.
The convergence of skull shape that we see, as measured by similarities in landmarks across the skulls, is driven by diet as large predatory mammals require similar features to allow similar bite forces, muscle attachment sites and other adaptations to deal with the mechanical loading of large prey. The thylacine shared a near identical dental formula ( / to other closely related taxa, including small insectivorous bandicoots ( / ), but dissimilar to the canids ( /, however, the teeth have been adapted for carnivory ie have evolved long sharp canines for piercing and jagged molars for tearing flesh - similar to the kinds of tooth structures seen in canids (another example of convergence driven by diet).
Our landmark analyses did not consider tooth type or shape. Skulls are used for lots of things other than just eating/obtaining prey, so there may be other behavioural, physiological and mechanical aspects behind their convergence in skull shape. (answered by Axel Newton and Christy Hipsley who did the skull morphometrics)

Q-What the realistic percentage chance of a cloned thylacine taking its first breath in the next 20 years?

Pask-That’s difficult to answer. See list of hurdles to a previous question above. I do think we will see some de-extinction projects get close within that time frame – like the mammoth – there is a huge effort on that front. My research is not aimed at de-extinction, but I will follow the advances with a great deal of interest!

Q-Do we have knowledge about the relative genetic diversity of museum specimens? If so does it show a lack of diversity across samples?

Pask-Yes. We did deep sampling and they concur with VERY low genetic diversity estimates – see above. This diversity was limited both before and during them being hunted to extinction. (

Q-In the unlikely event that thylacines were re-discovered in the wild would cloning help supplement, from a genetic point of view what would be a population in crisis?

Pask-The whole process is MUCH easier if there were a living animal discovered. Yes the species would still be in very bad genetic shape, but under proper management even species with just a few animals left – like the cheetah can survive.

Q-Are there avenues of funding readily available to undertake your work - if so what is the major source of the funding?

Pask-The thylacine has never been funded by either of the major grant schemes (ARC or NHMRC) who fund the majority of Australian science. Most of my basic marsupial biology research has been funded by the ARC. The thylacine work was funded from university funds that I was awarded over the years. It has been a real labour of love project for me. I am fascinated by the thylacine and what we can learn from this unique species!

Q-Is work on bringing back other extinct species a help to your work - i.e., general advancements in technology and knowledge that can be applied to your work?

Pask-Definitely. De-extinction is not the goal of my research on the thylacine. But I will watch the de-extinction literature closely. There are big teams of outstanding researchers working on ways to facilitate the process of de-extinction and they have made some amazing progress. As you can see from my response above – even with the tech to make a thylacine-like cell – we still have a lot of hurdles before we could bring one back…

Q-What is the ultimate goal? Is it to learn more about DNA, genetics, cloning, or is it to return the animal from extinction?

Pask-My lab studies evolution and development – Evo-Devo. We have the complete genomes now of 1000s of species, but we still don’t understand a lot about how the genome functions. My main interest with the thylacine is because it is an extreme example of convergence with the dogs. This enables us to ask a simple question. When two species evolve to look nearly identical, do you also see the same changes in their DNA to get to that body form. Then we can ask, where are those changes in the genome? Together this information can tell us how evolution actually works at the DNA level. This has lots of implications for understanding the function of our own genome and defining regions of the genome important in development and disease.

Q-Why are you personally motivated to undertake this work?

Pask-I have always been fascinated by the thylacine (like many of you!). I did some work over a decade ago showing that we could get viable thylacine DNA from the museum specimens and resurrect its function in transgenic mice. However, at this time it was not possible to sequence the genome from such a fragmented sample (broken up bits of DNA). But the DNA sequencing tech changed so much in the past decade that this became easily achievable. Doing this project I not only got to persue one of my main research objectives looking at evo-devo of the genome, but also got to learn so much more about the biology of the thylacine. This is something we will continue to uncover with our work moving forward.

Q-Why choose the thylacine?

Pask-Because it is the BEST example of convergence that we know of in the mammals. See above.

Q-Original work on cloning the thylacine was launched with much fan fare as 'the end of extinction' did the media attention and the subsequent stalling of that project help or hinder your work? Was any of the work undertaken by the previous research useable?

Pask-Nothing was ever published from the study you mentioned so there was no useable data for us. When the first attempt was launched, genome sequencing was still in its infancy and such an undertaking would have cost hundreds of millions. The only affect on our work from this is that people assume we are also working on de-extinction which is still a long ways off for the thylacine.

Q-The palynological reference for the penultimate glacial cycle was from southeastern South Australian and western Victorian region.
Was it hard to extrapolate from those two regions to the rest of Australia ?

Pask-These events affect temperature on a global scale and so the effects of the cycle would have altered vegetation and habitats across the continent. Still, these are only correlates that we have drawn that coincide with the population drop.

Australian National Geographic May 2017 Tasmanian tiger

Australian National Geographic May 2017 Tasmanian tiger

The previous tiger story from Australian National Geographic on the tasmanian tiger was in 1986

Nick Mooney and the Tasmanian Tiger

 Nick Mooney, one of the worlds leading thylacine experts was kind enough to answer questions from the members of The Thylacine Open Debate and Discussion Page

How many documentaries on the thylacine is he aware of?

By documentaries I understand movie or video recordings. There have
been at least 40 documentaries from the early days of film and TV that
I know of. There would be others both local and done overseas that I
do not know of. I have been involved with at least 15

Has anyone played a sound for you that you thought was possibly thylacine?

No I have had sounds played to me that I have not heard before but
none match what was reported for Thylacine.

Thylacine have distinctive feet - in your view do the planter pad to
toe pad ratios of 1:6 to 1:7 for thylacine feet make sense in
comparison to canine of 1:2 to 1:3?

Yes and they apply for all quadruped marsupials I have examine. I have
found no overlap between equivalent prints for dog and those

With the Thylacine jaw structure not being as powerful as wolves or
dogs do you believe they preyed more on small mammals, and fowl
instead of Kangaroos or Wallabies.

It was only ever modelled or projected as not being as powerful –
never directly measured. Thylacines were large animals – up to 35kg.
Even if not as bite-strong as the same sized canid they still have an
impressive jaw and large teeth so I expect they could kill prey as
large as themselves. They of course can also kill much smaller things.
I also expect they took what was most available so would concentrate
on different prey in different places, just like most predators do.
Remember canids kill very large prey by ripping but thylacines would
have been restricted to a heavy bite and maybe shake. The narrow
muzzle suggests precision to me so I suggest they focused on animals
about half their own weight killing with a big, precise bite.
Wallabies fit that prey description. There are direct observations of
them killing large animals including hunting dogs so I am not
enthusiastic in using modelling instead of direct observation. If the
modelling conflicts with direct observation maybe the modelling has to
be revisited and the direct observation too.
Differences can be resolved by applying about the normal curve - most
Thylacine prey would be smaller than the thylacine but some would be
larger and some much smaller. Devils kill much larger animals if they
are partially incapacitated but also kill tadpoles. Animals motives
(hunger) also effects what they may do. Young raptors often kill
larger things than do older, more experienced individuals but if they
survive, eventually learn what is safe to kill. Prey populations and
therefore availability also change seasonally and year to year and
predators have to be flexible enough to encompass this.

With the extinction of the Tasmanian Emu do you believe this had a
detrimental affect on the Thylacines food source

I doubt they killed adult emus very often. They are dangerous prey.

Any thoughts on the Attard study which showed that the structure of
the skull and jaws are relatively weaker than those of a similarly
sized canid.

Comments as above.

Regarding the supposed shooting/discovery of a Thylacine's body (or
possibly more than one even) at Adamsfield in 1990, did you ever have
sight of the series of photos that were supposedly taken of it at the
time and/or did you/the department officially investigate that
situation at all? Any thoughts or conclusions would be appreciated.

We were not told about it. The first supposed photos I saw were
associated with comments from Col bailey only a few years ago. I still
do not know who supposedly did the shooting /made the discovery and
have not seen the original photos.

Can he give the approx dates of the large private expeditions that
seem to remain somewhat classified.

Most expeditions were private and its up to those ‘owning’ them to
talk about or not. They sometimes contacted the department or even me
privately and request confidentiality.  By large I understand not $
spent but area covered with reasonable effort. One might also say
10000 camera nights (eg 10 cameras for 1000 nights)  is large. Peter
Wright did a large one in the mid 1980s, Dave Watts and Stew Blackhall
did several through the early 1990s, there was a French one in the mid
1990s using a pet sheep as a lure. Ned terry did several large
expeditions through the 1990s and early 2000s. So called ‘Tigerman’
reportedly did his own through the early/mid 2000s although being
anonymous its impossible to know if they were real expeditions. There
are scores if not hundreds of cameras out there these days, most
private. I am in contact with 3 ongoing searches by enthusiasts. I’d
call them large searches because they go on for a long time, as above.
No doubt I simply don’t know of others. Some of what of seem large
searches because of the publicity prove to be very small if done at

If he had to look for a thylacine today where would he look?

One might consider a place with lots of wallabies and possums and
refuges that is large enough to contain at least say 10 Thylacines in
contact but small or remote enough to have those thylacines
overlooked. Much of coastal western Tasmania suits that as does some
patches of decent soils (which concentrate values)  in the highlands
and mid south. The good soils of Granville Hbr are an example but they
are farmed with people living there so I doubt thylacines are
overlooked there. However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, we are simply not
as good as we think we are at finding very rare things.

Is there any reason to suspect the disease which affected the
thylacine in the early part of the century had any connection with the
decline in devil numbers in 1950? In either case, if the 1950 decline
is attributable to disease do we have any what it was?

The supposed disease(s) were not properly recorded and it can only be
speculated what impact they had. Mostly we just have some anecdotes –
there were no even vaguely consistent measures of abundance. The
current devil disease DFTD is obvious but such a disease doesn’t have
to be obvious (eg a more visibly subtle or internal caner). Maybe it
was something like that. Some marsupials are inclined to pneumonia
even in apparent epidemics. Perhaps toxoplasmosis had a very high
impact early in its career here. Distemper seems very unlikely to jump
from eutherian to marsupial.

Do you still search for thylacines in your private time ?

Occasionally but more in the course of doing other surveys or having
fun in the bush. I help monitor devils and other wildlife and do some
mine assessments in remote areas so always keep an eye out. Footprints
are my key expertise.

What is your best thylacine report after Hans Naarding..?

There are many arguably better because they simply had multiple
observers none of whom knew anything about thylacines but just
reported what they saw. Hans would likely agree with that. I have one
daytime report from near Zeehan of 2 cars with 7 people (who didn’t
know each other car to car) the first car passing the animal standing
on the roadside and stopping and the second parking before it.
Daytime. Each car was 20 m from the animal by my reconstruction and
they had 7 seconds view. So they were either right or lying.

If you had to put a %, how certain are you that 1080 isn't going to
affect the native wildlife? Any idea what caused the drop off in
sighting reports from the 80's to the 90's?

1080 is much misunderstood. It is found in some Australian plants as
a plant defence against browsers. So most Australian animals have
evolutionary exposure and some resistance. Devils for instance are, kg
for kg about 34 times as resistant as a dog (with no evolutionary
exposure). Wedge-tailed eagles have one of the highest resistances of
any bird or mammal, much higher than say Golden eagles which not being
in Australia have very little resistance. Herbivores are less
resistant than most carnivores. This means amounts that might harm
wallabies probably won’t harm devils or our eagles but might kill

The amount ingested per size of the individual animal and that
individuals health and fitness and that species’ physiological
resistance governs what happens.High doses of 1080 were (and still are sometimes I think) used to
systematically kill wallabies but there has NEVER been a native
carnivore proven to be killed by one of these operational culls.
Devils are very resistant spotted tailed quolls and eastern quolls
somewat less resistant. We can speculate where Thylacines sat but its
likely they too had considerable resistance. None has resistance to
say Strychnine. The widespread rabbit strychnine poisonings of the
50s, 60s and later other synthetic poisons could have been very
damaging to remaining Thylacines.The 80s and 90s saw much (illegal) poisoning of devils eagles and ravens using organophosphates, deadly to everything. But it was still
mostly in rural areas. I’m not sure sighting did drop off in that
period although reports did.

That period also saw a cynicism and scepticism enter Tasmania,
something for which we are now (in)famous, and with it maybe came
enhanced reluctance to expose oneself to ridicule. Hence less reports.
Once the department paid the issue less attention (by the mid1990s)
then reports drifted towards private enthusiasts. I suspect there are
just as many ‘events’ now and they are reported as often but those
reports are dispersed and kept private.

The Last Tiger

Author/member/thylacine fan.. Tony Black was kind enough to answer a few questions about his book "The Last Tiger" which is getting rave reviews on Amazon UK..see end of post.

Q-I was looking at your impressive list of crime novellas, short stories and books etc, what is the final count?

Tony Black-I think I'm up to 14 novels now, but I haven't counted up all the smaller stuff. The latest one is called Bay of Martyrs and is set in SW Victoria. I co-authored this with an Aussie writer called Matt Neal and it just came out here in the UK a week ago.

Q-What led you to writing as a career?

Tony-A complete lack of any other skills, to be brutally honest. I think I realised fairly early on that I wasn't going to get called up by Liverpool to pull on the red jersey, so writing jumped up the scale of my ambitions.

Q-How did you get interested initially into writing a book about thylacines?
Tony-I used to work on a paper in SW Victoria called The Standard and when I was there I wrote several stories about strange animal sightings in the district that the locals thought were the thylacine. I started to dig into the subject and was immediately hooked. It's a tragic story, something that should never have happened, and it struck a chord with me, on a very deep level, that is still resonating today.

Q-What research did that entail?

Tony-Initially, I went to the library in Warrnambool where I was staying and started to work my way through a shelf of books. In time I ended up talking to a lot of researchers and corresponded a little with Col Bailey, who I regard as one of the leading experts on the subject anywhere in the world. I was extremely flattered that Col rated The Last Tiger so highly because if anyone is qualified to pick apart my research it's him.

Q-Have you been to Tasmania or are you planning to go one day?

Tony-Yes, I've been to Tasmania and I've met up with Col, which was a great honour after all he's done for the subject of the thylacine. I'm planning another trip before the end of the year, once I get all my ducks in a row,

Q-Reviews of The Last Tiger on Amazon.UK are amazing, you must be proud of this sort of reader feedback.

Tony-Yes, of all my books I'd say The Last Tiger is the one that I held closest to my heart. The only other one that comes anywhere near is His Father's Son - also set in Australia - because it's dedicated to my son. The Last Tiger did get some great reviews and was runner-up in Not the Booker Prize (it won the popular vote by a mile, but that's another story!) so I can't complain about the critical response at all.

Q-Have any readers ever contacted you with thylacine claims?

Tony-Yes. Quite a few over the years. When I was working for The Standard, after my first story on SW thylacine sightings, I was inundated for a little while. I remember one old bloke coming in to the paper to tell me he saw a thylacine when it was brought to town by a travelling circus in the 1930s. He was still moved by that creature, spoke about how sad it looked in the cage the circus kept it in.

Q-Your writing skills are impressive enough to make some of your reviewers cry?
Tony-Hopefully for the right reasons! The agent I had when I wrote The Last Tiger was over in America, a really lovely woman, and she still tells me how moved she was by the book. She'll warn people who post on Facebook that they've just bought The Last Tiger to make sure they have a box of tissues to hand. I'd like to claim it's down to my writing but I think the story we all know of the demise of the thylacine is the real tear-jerker.

Q-Any more books on the tiger in the pipeline?
Tony-No, I'm afraid not. I'm not done with the thylacine, but it's a subject I think I've exhausted in The Last Tiger. The final chapter does, however, leave the door open for an addition to the story, a last hurrah for the thylacine if you like, I think we'd all like to see that chapter added to the story, one day.
Thanks for yout time Tony !

Tasmanian Tiger Tails

Thats not a typo.
I really meant Tails.
Here is the thing.
You find a photo like this below

The hunt for the australian tasmanian tiger

And you would look at the tail and go "okay, thylacines have striped tails".
And that would appear be a logical statement...
But then you notice that not all thylacine speciments have striped tails...actually the majority do not.
So what gives...?
They dont..what photos we have of the animals alive..and short 8mm film clips...that appear to show a striped tail..are actually just showing the vertabrae shadow under the skin.
But back to the photo.
The stripes are painted on...thanks to the work of Cameron Campbell and Dr Sleighholme we know that the animal above is "the specimen is listed in the ITSD as the thylacine in Walter Rothschild's collection in Tring (Hertfordshire in the UK .The stripes on this specimen have been painted on, and are not due to natural pigment."
And then Cameron kindly provided this next photo.

The hunt for the australian tasmanian tiger

There are one or two other taxidermy specimens where this has been done.  The other specimen that comes to mind is the taxidermy in the National Museum of Ireland, in which the stripes continue along the full length of the tail (photo attached).  You will never find this anomaly on any of the specimen skins, or for that matter, in a living thylacine.

The worlds greatest data base on the thylacine is this site