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Thylacine

Current status

[Photo of Thylacine by Q. Vic. Museum & Art Gallery]

Listed as presumed extinct under both the Federal and State Threatened Species Protection Acts. This means thylacine have not been officially sighted in the wild or captivity for at least 50 years. The last known record of a thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was from a Tasmanian zoo, where it died in 1936.

What do we know about the thylacine?

Much of what we know about the thylacine comes from historical records, personalised accounts collected by zoologist Eric Guiler in the 1970's and 1980's or from studying museum collections. Much of its biology may never be known now.

We do know that it used to be widespread on the mainland about 7,000 years ago and has probably been extinct there for 2,000 years. This has been attributed to the competition of dingoes, which were introduced at least 8,000 years ago to the mainland.

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The thylacine was in Tasmania when Europeans first arrived 200 years ago. They may have already been on the decline but this was certainly accelerated by the new arrivals. Thylacines were seen as a direct threat to stock and were shot on sight. Eventually a bounty was placed on them and 2063 claims for bounty were made which led to the thylacines rapid extinction. Unfortunately the thylacines habitat coincided with the best farming areas. Many were trapped for zoos and these are now a source of records on thylacine biology in captivity. From such records we learnt that they survived in captivity for up to 13 years. Those caught with pouch young often had 3 and once 4 pouch young.

The Future

Perhaps we can learn from the past and stop other unique species reaching this most terminable of states. Today there are still unverified claims of thylacine sightings from not only Tasmania but also the mainland. Searches have been undertaken by both zoologists and amateurs seeking to solve the mystery of the thylacine.

Recommended further reading

The Australian Museum 1983. Complete book of Australian Mammals. Ed. R. Strahan. Angus and Robertson.

Guiler E. R. 1984. Thylacine: the tragedy Of The Tasmanian Tiger. Oxford Uni Press.

Notesheet available Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania

[Back to List of Threatened Mammals]