Tasmanian Tiger: Back from the Dead?
After recent reports indicating sightings of the extinct thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, researchers are preparing to launch a scientific survey to capture the species on camera.
Is the thylacine—also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf—back from the dead? Some scientists believe so after some alleged sightings were reported in Australia.
The striped, dog-like marsupial was last seen in the wild in the 1910s. The breed was believed to be extinct after the last of the species died in captivity in 1936 at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Australia.
No evidence has since been found suggesting that the species still exists, and the species was declared officially extinct in 1986 by international standards.
But recently, 2 people in North Queensland, Australia, reported "plausible and detailed descriptions" of animals that resembled thylacines.
According to James Cook University Professor Bill Laurance, PhD, “one of those observers was a long-time employee of the Queensland National Parks Service, and the other was a frequent camper and outdoorsman in north Queensland.”
The Tasmanian tiger is a relatively shy, nocturnal species that looks like a medium-to-large-size dog. It has a stiff tail, abdominal pouch, and dark stripes on top of its back that resemble those of a tiger. In one of the reported sightings, 4 animals were spotted at close range—about 20 feet—lit up by a spotlight. Scientists cross-checked the 2 depictions of the sighted animals with other large-bodied species and found that they were inconsistent with animals such as dingoes, wild dogs, or feral pigs.
Due to these sightings, James Cook University scientists are preparing to launch a scientific search for the supposedly extinct Tasmanian tiger. The research team will be surveying the 2 locations where the Tasmanian tigers were supposedly seen.
“Everything is being handled with strict confidence, so we won’t be able to say exactly where we are conducting the surveys aside from it being on the Cape York Peninsula,” said Prof. Laurance. The team will use 50 camera traps in its attempt to capture images of the animal. The study is said to begin this month.
But no matter what is caught on film, researchers still believe they will be gaining valuable insight into whatever species is recorded. "Regardless of which species are detected, the survey will provide important data on the status of mammal species on Cape York, where wildlife populations have evidently been undergoing severe population declines in recent years," Prof. Laurance said in the statement.