I’m sure that just about everyone who comes to Mysterious Universe will have seen the story that surfaced recently suggesting that the thylacine might still be alive. Despite all the brouhaha, the story collapsed. That doesn’t mean there are no living thylacines, however. What it does mean, though, is that right now we need to keep looking and stay enthusiastic. So, with that letdown, I thought I would share with you a bit about the animal, one of the most intriguing creatures of relatively modern times. Indeed, a bit of background on the thylacine is very much in order. Mainstream zoology is of the opinion the creature is now extinct; it most certainly had a good run: fossilized examples of the creature have been found, demonstrating that it lived as far back as the Miocene period. That’s to say, around 23 to 5 million years ago.
While the thylacine is generally accepted to have died out in Australia thousands of years ago, history has shown it clung on in Tasmania – roughly 150 miles from Australia – until quite recently. Specifically to the 1930s. Not everyone, however, is so sure the creature is completely gone. How do we know? All thanks to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Australian Government’s Freedom of Information Act, that’s how. Both the TPWS and the Australian government have declassified their files and records on the creature; they are filled with credible sightings of thylacines in Tasmania, and all of which post-date the 1930s; in some cases significantly so. In the TPWS’ own website-based words:
“Since 1936, no conclusive evidence of a thylacine has been found. However, the incidence of reported thylacine sightings has continued. Most sightings occur at night, in the north of the State, in or near areas where suitable habitat is still available. Although the species is now considered to be ‘probably extinct,’ these sightings provide some hope that the thylacine may still exist.” As for the Australian Government, it notes at its official webpage on the thylacine:
“Australia is home to some of the world’s most unusual and mysterious wildlife. Our native animals, such as the platypus, the koala and the kangaroo, have been a source of wonder and surprise to people the world over. But perhaps our most mysterious animal is the thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger. There are many reasons why people are fascinated by this animal. Perhaps it is its name and the romantic notion of Australia having its own ‘tiger.’ Perhaps it is its sad history since European settlement, or the fact that there are many people who claim they have seen a Tasmanian Tiger and believe it may not be extinct after all.”
And as Australian government officials also state: “Although commonly called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, the thylacine has more in common with its marsupial cousin the Tasmanian Devil. With a head like a wolf, striped body like a tiger and backward facing pouch like a wombat, the thylacine was as unbelievable as the platypus which had caused disbelief and uproar in Europe when it was first described. The thylacine looked like a long dog with stripes, a heavy stiff tail and a big head. A fully grown thylacine could measure 180cm from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, stand 58cm high at the shoulder and weigh about 30 kilograms. It had short, soft fur that was brown except for the thick black stripes which extended from the base of the tail to the shoulders.”
Also from the Australian Government’s thylacine files: “The thylacine was said to have an awkward way of moving, trotting stiffly and not moving particularly quickly. They walked on their toes like a dog but could also move in a more unusual way – a bipedal hop. The animal would stand upright with its front legs in the air, resting its hind legs on the ground and using its tail as a support, exactly the way a kangaroo does. Thylacines had been known to hop for short distances in this position.”
The fact that government agencies are still open-minded to the idea that thylacines might still be with us, makes me think there’s just a chance of us finally seeing a living thylacine. One day! Maybe! I hope!