The Last Tasmanian Tiger

Candice Gaukel Andrews December 6, 2012 14

As with the film footage of the last known imperial woodpecker or the remains of the last passenger pigeon, seeing video of the final member of any animal’s kind is sad and eerie, and a good reminder of how fragile our planet and its life-forms are. So it is with this 1934 footage below of the last Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus), the world’s largest marsupial carnivore. The average Tasmanian tiger weighed about sixty-five pounds and had a nose-to-tail length of six feet.

Zoos are sometimes the home for such lone survivors. The female Tasmanian tiger depicted in this video was the last one to be captured and died in Tasmania’s now closed Hobart Zoo on September 7, 1936. The last wild Tasmanian tiger was killed between 1910 and 1920. In 1986, the species was declared extinct.

But where there is the last of any animal we pine for, there is always hope — and sightings. Over the years, many have reported seeing fleeting glimpses of the tigers in Tasmania’s remote forests. None of the sightings has been confirmed.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. I can tell you that a similar scenario happened in Wisconsin, where I live. The cougar was said to have been extirpated in the state in 1925. But over the years, people reported numerous sightings, only to be told by Department of Natural Resources experts that Wisconsin had no cougars. In 2008, we got our proof that they are, indeed, here. Who knows for how long they managed to avoid us?

Let’s hope that out there somewhere, the Tasmanian tiger, too, is hanging on.

14 Comments »

  1. Leslie Segall December 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Personally, I found watching that last Tasmanian tiger pacing around in that small enclosure more devastating to his benefit. Death may have been kinder.

    If we’re going to save these endangered creatures, we at least owe them a reasonable habitat and the ability to use their resources.

    • Zenda Iannetti December 9, 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply

      I agree. I recently listened to this special on NPR where they discussed the evolution of zoos, and their role in animal protection. Apparently one zoo finally decided to create open enclosures for primates that had been previously been kept in small cage like enclosures (similar to this Tasmanian tiger). This actually occurred not too long ago – 1950s-70s?)

      The biologists were afraid that they would attack and break the glass windows, lose their minds, etc… but it turned out that the primates finally seemed somewhat happy. It was a very interesting story.

  2. Patricia December 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    So sad, when you hear those words “the last” unless it’s referring to the last poacher or the last hunter or the last encroaching civilization.

  3. Candi Hubert December 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Sad watching this video. The more diversity we have on the planet, the better and more blessed we are. Extinction is forever.

  4. Pat T. December 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Wow!

  5. Shirley December 7, 2012 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Excellent Candice. I will watch it and pass it on. we have very serious species loss in Australia and I’ve just been reading Tim Flannery on how cheap it can be to save species but the government will not do anything. So, I suggest we tell the government. What do you think?

  6. samio December 7, 2012 at 7:47 am - Reply

    The difference between the Tasmanian tiger and the cougar in Wisconsin is that the cougar, or mountain lion, can be found in many US states and Canada, giving the species the opportunityto migrate into vacant territory. Tasmania is an island and there have been no confirmed reports. It is highly unlikely that it is extant.

    • nancheska January 23, 2013 at 11:48 am - Reply

      I agree. Cougars can migrate to vast areas; thylacines only lived in Tasmania (as far as we know), unless some folks brought a few back to Australia in the early 1900′s. The only way to know for sure is to get a confirmation, preferably DNA. It’s sad, but very likely the Tassie Tiger is extinct. A better use of time/funds would be in helping the remaining marsupials in Australia and Tasmania, for example, koalas, Tassie devils, quoll, etc. Time is of the essence.

      • nancheska January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am -

        I forgot: some thylacines lived in New Guinea, but they’re very likely extinct as well.

  7. Candice Gaukel Andrews December 7, 2012 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Shirley,

    Thanks for commenting. It never hurts to let your political representatives know of your concerns regarding wildlife and the environment. Keep advocating!

  8. Sophia Bahlkow December 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    This footage has captivated me my whole life. What an interesting and lovely creature.

  9. Alan December 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    At this stage all we can do is hope…

  10. Shona Hill December 18, 2012 at 9:42 am - Reply

    What an AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL creature :) As Alan says, let us live in hope that somewhere a couple still exist :) To lose any wildlife is such a tragedy as they are all so BEAUTIFUL :)

  11. Carter and Olivia December 19, 2012 at 9:33 am - Reply

    We agree, it is always sad to see the last of a species, that is why our two young founders started their Rhino Letter Writing Campaign. They plan to collect at least 1,000 letters from people all over the world. The letters are addressed to President Zuma of South Africa and are asking him to get serious about stoping poaching before it is too late. You too can make a difference by sending them your letter today. They plan on hand delivering all the letters to president Zuma in early 2013:

    http://onemoregeneration.org/2012/07/20/dear-president-zuma/

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