|Dr. Eric Rowland Guiler
- By Col Bailey -
"A Man on a Mission"
With the death in 2008
of Australia's leading thylacine researcher,
Dr. Eric Rowland Guiler, came the end a significant chapter in Tasmanian
and Australian zoology. His exacting and relentless search for the
thylacine or Tasmanian tiger lasted 44 years, an animal many believed extinct,
stamped Guiler as "a man on a mission".
Born in Belfast in 1922, Guiler served with the British Army during World
War II. He trained as a marine biologist, and after majoring in zoology
at Queen's University (Belfast), migrated to Australia in 1947 to take
up a lectureship at the University of Tasmania. He eventually retired
as reader in zoology in 1982.
He published over 100
scientific papers, including six on the Tasmanian tiger, as well as writing
several excellent and widely read books on the subject, most notably -
The Tragedy of the Tasmanian Tiger" published in 1985, and "Tasmanian
Tiger. A lesson to be learnt" in conjunction with Philippe Godard
When chairman of the
Tasmanian Animals and Birds Protection Board, Guiler's attention turned
to the thylacine, which saw him launch an intensive and enduring investigation
into the animal's possible continued existence. His extensive and
in-depth research included personally interviewing not only those claiming
to have sighted the thylacine over recent years, but many of the old-time
bushmen who had both trapped and lived in the bush alongside the animal
in the years prior to 1936 (the year in which the last known captive thylacine
died at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart).
Rowland Guiler (1922-2008).
| It was from these ageing
and knowledgeable men that he was able to glean a valuable and fascinating
insight into an animal which to that time had attracted little scientific
Guiler was the only
thylacine researcher to have interviewed the reticent Pearce family of
Clarence River, near Derwent Bridge, who caught dozens of thylacines under
the Tasmanian government bounty scheme. His affable interviewing
skills gained the confidence of the family and he was rewarded with first-hand
accounts of thylacines that would have otherwise been lost.
Cover of "Tasmanian
Tiger. A lesson to be learnt".
Publishing Pty Ltd (1998).
Guiler conducted several expeditions
into remote areas of Tasmania in search of the Tasmanian tiger, including
the vast Woolnorth property in the North West, various isolated West Coast
localities, the Derwent Valley, the Rossarden area, Trowutta, along the
West Coast Road, and the Whyte River area of north western Tasmania.
He also teamed up with NPWS officer Steven Smith in 1980 to conduct an
in-depth, 12-month field investigation in various key areas of Tasmania.
In 1980, Dr. Eric Guiler's
efforts were justly rewarded when he was appointed a Member of the
Order of Australia.
He was a close personal
friend and confidant, and on one of our last walks through the Tasmanian
bush, we sat on a log and spent some time working out what course we would
take if we were fortunate enough to catch up with the Tasmanian tiger.
He told me that it had always worried him what he would actually do if
and when he found a thylacine, for he, like me, was a strong advocate of
implementing Maria Island along the East Coast of Tasmania as a thylacine
sanctuary should this ever eventuate.
| Guiler never lost hope
that he would one day lay eyes on a live Tasmanian tiger. After suffering
a disabling stroke while investigating thylacine activity in the Arthur
River area in 2002, Eric's health steadily declined over the following
six years. If any man alive deserved to see the Tasmanian tiger in
the flesh it was Eric Guiler, but sadly, it was not to be.
Tasmanian Tiger researcher
Professor Dr. Heinz Friedrich
- By Dr. Stephen Sleightholme
for University and City"
Friedrich Moeller (1936-2009).
| It is always somewhat
of an onerous task to write a brief summary of the academic achievements
of a dear friend; especially one of the calibre of the late Heinz Moeller,
for which we owe much to the recent expansion of the museum. Moeller
was born in Berlin in 1936. He was internationally regarded, along
with his good friend Dr. Eric Guiler, as an authority on the zoology of
the thylacine. His archives, arguably the largest outside of Australia,
form the core material from which the most recent revision to the Thylacine
Museum has been referenced and produced.
Moeller was the long-time director of the former Department of Vertebrate
Morphology at the Zoological Institute of Heidelberg University.
He always regarded himself above all else as a teacher, and was the founder
of the popular winter lecture series on site, which since 1979,
has seen over 100,000 people educated in the mysteries of science.
During his long career,
Moeller wrote a number of important papers on the thylacine, and in 1997
he published his book "Der Beutelwolf".
In 1998, Moeller was
invited to Hobart by the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, to open what
was to become the successful "The Tasmanian Tiger: The Mystery of the
Eric Guiler (left) and
Heinz Moeller (right).
Hobart, Tasmania, September
| Moeller retired from
his position at Heidelberg University in September 2001. The following
year, he was awarded Germany's highest honour; the Grand Cross of the Order
of Merit, for his contribution to zoology. At the award ceremony,
in the Hall of Mirrors at the university, Heidelberg's mayor, Beate Weber
said of Moeller: "He was a 'treasure' for faculty, university and city"
and paid tribute to his commitment to the protection of species.
Cover of "Der Beutelwolf".
Westarp Wissenschaften (1997).
I was fortunate to work with Moeller as both my mentor and friend for the
last six years of his life. He peer reviewed the first four editions
of the International
Thylacine Specimen Database and I assisted him on two of his
personal projects; the accurate ageing of thylacine skulls from the wear
pattern on the lower incisor teeth, and the evolutionary development of
the thylacine's stripe pattern. In all aspects of his work, Moeller
was meticulous with the finer detail; essential with something as complex
as the ITSD. He was a hard task master, but always had time for a
smile or a light-hearted comment. The ITSD owes much to Moeller's
enthusiasm and determination that such a project should be completed to
encourage future researchers in their efforts to expand our understanding
of the species.
His knowledge of everything "thylacine"
was truly inspiring.
|Dr Stephen Sleightholme
Thylacine Specimen Database