More than 60 years ago, in a chain-link cage at the Holbart Zoo, in Australia, a
creature with a five foot long, low dog-like body died. Its death marked the extinction of
the Tasmanian Tiger.
A hundred years ago the tigers (which are not cats at all, but marsupial wolves) were
common on Tasmania, which lies just south of the eastern portion of the Australia.
In the distant past they also populated the continent of Australia, but became
extinct about 2000 years ago.It is possible they pushed out by competion by the Dingo,
hunted by humans and suffered from the loss of their usual habitat.
They carried their young in pouches as do other marsupials like the kangaroo and the
koala. They also sported a long, heavy, kangaroo-like tail. The name "tiger"
comes from dark strips that ran across the flanks of the creature's yellow-brown fur. The
animals were also referred to as Tasmanian Wolves, or thylacines (their scientific name is
The tigers' primary food source were small mammals like wallabies, kangaroos and rats.
The tiger's feet left a five toed print which is similar, but easily distinguished from a
dog's. Dogs have only four toes. While the creatures looked fierce because of their large
heads and wide jaws (opening larger than that of any other mammal), they were actually shy
and retiring. The largest of them grew six feet long, including the tail, and they stood
two feet high at the shoulder.
At the end of the 19th century as humans moved into the tiger's territories, conflicts
arose. Farmers blamed the tigers for livestock losses. Development of cultivated land also
interfered with the animal's habitat. A bounty was placed on the creatures and thousands
of them were killed. By the time the Australian government moved to protect the tigers, it
was too late.
Most of the recent reports of Tasmanian Tigers come from the Island of Tasmania, a
state of Australia, Tasmania covers 26,383 square miles and about a half-million
people live there. There are still wild sections where the creature could be hiding.
Ever since that specimen died in captivity, there have been continuous reports of
tigers being sighted in Tasmania, near their old habitats and as well as on mainland
Australia. Mainland sightings have mostly been from Victoria (XXXXXXXXXX), XXXXXX and even
from XXXXXX in Western Australia.
Reports of animals similar to the tiger have come from New Guinea. In 1997 villagers in
two remote mountain towns on the island of Irian Jaya, (the western part of New
Guinea, which has been invaded and controlled by Indonesia), reported a pack of six or
seven of the creatures very similar to the TT had attacked the villager's chickens
In 1995, a park ranger spotted what looked like a Tasmanian Tiger in the Pyengana
region of Tasmania.
In 1995 the government launched an investigation to try and find the tiger. Also, many
amateur cryptozoologists have searched for the animals. So far, if the tigers are still
alive, they have evaded science's eyes.
Imagine a bizarre animal that appears to be half wolf and half tiger, with a head like a
large dog's, hindquarters like a hyena's, and tiger stripes covering only the rear half of
its body. Let's say this beast also has a long, rigid tail and a pouch like a kangaroo's,
except that the pouch opens backwards. It sure sounds like a mythical mishmash of
different species, similar to a jackalope or minotaur, but guess what? This creature is a
real animal. Or at least, it was.
The thylacine was also known as the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, but it was neither
feline nor canine. It was a carnivorous marsupial which was thought to be a distant
relative of the opossum. Like so many marsupials, the thylacine was exclusively native to
Australia. The species seems to have been driven off the continent's mainland about 12,000
years ago, probably because of a losing battle against dingoes. The thylacine found refuge
on the island of Tasmania, which was once connected to the continent by a land bridge, and
became the only place on Earth where thylacines were found.
In the 19th century, European settlers on Tasmania vilified the thylacine as a destructive
menace responsible for slaughtering sheep and other livestock. Both government and private
agencies offered bounties to have them killed. Thylacines were exterminated at a rapid
pace, with the animal's strange appearance making it an easy target and public hatred
fueling the hunt. By the early 20th century, the thylacine was nearly wiped out and no
longer a significant threat, and yet the killing continued. Bounties on the animal were
officially ended in 1909, but the thylacine was still being hunted down as late as 1930.
The people of Tasmania finally realized that the thylacine was virtually extinct. In 1933,
the last known specimen was captured and kept at the Hobart Zoo, where it was named
Benjamin. (A photograph of Benjamin appears on this page.) In 1936, Tasmania declared
thylacines a protected species, but only two months later, Benjamin died in captivity. On
that day, the thylacine officially became extinct.
But soon after Benjamin's death, the new sightings began. People began seeing thylacine in
wild areas across Tasmania, engendering belief that the reports of its extinction was
premature. Some experts are willing to concede that a small number of thylacines may
survive in hiding somewhere in Tasmania, but despite a vast number of sightings and
discoveries of alleged thylacine tracks, no concrete evidence of the species' survival
there has yet been produced.
And as if thylacine sightings in Tasmania aren't strange enough, there's also plenty of
thylacine sightings outside Tasmania. The island of Tasmania was the sole and isolated
habitat of the animal for thousands of years, and now there are reports that the creature
is still alive in other places -- most commonly on the Australian continent, but in other
parts of the world as well.
In 1981, the Australia government hired professional tracker Kevin Cameron to investigate
sightings of a strange animal in Western Australia. Cameron soon reported that he saw the
animal and said that it was a thylacine. In 1985, Cameron produced a series of alleged
photographs of a living thylacine. The pictures were initially convincing, but analysis
cast doubts on their authenticity: the animal's head was never shown, its body never
changed position, and the photos were taken from wide variety of angles that were
inconsistent with Cameron's story of a 20- to 30-second encounter. Cameron's photos are
generally judged to be of a fake or stuffed thylacine, an explanation which raises the
possibility that Cameron may have killed a living thylacine and staged these photos, to
avoid the government's $5,000 fine that would apply to the killing of a thylacine, which
is still listed as a protected species.
The thylacine has also been recently spotted alive and well as far afield as Indonesia and
England. These reports have no more credibility than the average Bigfoot sighting, or
maybe even less, since there is no documented data on Bigfoot's exclusive habitats. But
the thylacine has become one of the favorite topics of modern cryptozoology, even
attracting the attention of famous adventure-seekers like Walt Disney, Sir Edmund Hillary,
and Ted Turner, who have all searched for the creature. The thylacine truly is the world's
most common extinct animal.