Tails of the Tassie Tiger

TASMANIAN HISTORY: An image of the last known Tasmanian Tiger, commonly known as "Benjamin", at the Hobart Zoo around 1933, photographed by HJ King. 
The image was taken around three years before "Benjamin" died in captivity on September 7, 1936. The Tasmanian Tiger was then declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1982 and by the Tasmanian government in 1986. PICTURE: Courtesy of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Inveresk.
TASMANIAN HISTORY: An image of the last known Tasmanian Tiger, commonly known as "Benjamin", at the Hobart Zoo around 1933, photographed by HJ King. The image was taken around three years before "Benjamin" died in captivity on September 7, 1936. The Tasmanian Tiger was then declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1982 and by the Tasmanian government in 1986. PICTURE: Courtesy of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Inveresk.

On July 10, 1936, the Tasmanian Government declared the Thylacine a protected species, and shortly after the last known of its kind died in captivity.

It would be another 50 years before the Thylacine was declared extinct by the Tasmanian Government in 1986, making it the first known species of animal to become extinct in the state.

The last known Thylacine, referred to as “Benjamin”, died at the Hobart Zoo on September 7 in 1936.

One of its closest living relatives is believed to be the Tasmanian Devil which, along with more than 300 other animals, is listed as ‘threatened’ in Australia.

Resembling a large dog, its yellow-brown coat featured stripes, earning it the nickname ‘tiger’.

Questions around what led to its extinction still remain however history shows a bounty placed on its head may have largely contributed.

A bounty was issued by Van Diemen's Land Company in 1830 and again in 1888 by the Government.

By 1909, 2184 bounties were believed to have been paid and the Government program was terminated.

Over a century on, the mystery of the Thylacine continues with sightings reported in both Tasmania and on the mainland.

A spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said despite these sightings, no evidence for its existence had been provided.

“Under Tasmanian legislation, the Thylacine is classified as endangered, presumed to be extinct,” the spokesperson said. 

“The criterion for this status is that no occurrence of the taxon in the wild can be confirmed during the past 50 years.

“In 2012, researchers at the University of Queensland did a comprehensive analysis of Australian mammals believed to be extinct.  Using specific criteria to determine whether a species was likely to still exist, the research concluded that the Thylacine was indeed extinct.”

Tammy Gordon has been researching the Thylacine as the collection officer at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston.

Mrs Gordon said she had “heard it all” when it came to sightings of the tiger.

“We’ve had hoaxes, but people generally believe that they have seen one,” she said.

“But the way I see it, the only verifiable evidence is a Thylacine itself.

“Sightings can’t be scientifically verified.”

Addressing the conspiracy theories, Mrs Gordon said if the Government knew the animal was still alive, there would be plans put in place.

“They would have come forward by now, there’s no reason to keep it a secret,” she said.

“The first thing they would be wanting to do is setup conservation areas.”

EVIDENCE: An adult Thylacine skull on display at QVMAG in Inveresk as part of the Tasmanian Tiger - Precious Little Remains exhibit.

EVIDENCE: An adult Thylacine skull on display at QVMAG in Inveresk as part of the Tasmanian Tiger - Precious Little Remains exhibit.