Mullins family group (continued):
The town of Tyenna,
circa 1900. Courtesy: Moeller Archives.
The World newspaper (Hobart) of the 6th February 1924 (p. 5) confirms that
even though the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) in Hobart had two thylacines on display
in 1924, Mullins's thylacines (as fairground attractions) still attracted
a steady stream of visitors:
"Despite the fact that the Hobart Zoo contains two fine specimens of the
Tasmanian Tiger, the sign 'Wild Animals from Van Diemen's Land, Tasmanian
Tigers," attracted a steady stream of patrons who gladly parted with the
nimble shilling to gaze on the products of their native isle".
The World newspaper of the 9th February 1924 (p. 4) confirms the date of
the Mullins purchase:
"Additions to Zoo. - Interesting additions to the Beaumaris Zoo during
the week were four Tasmanian tigers, the mother and three cubs, which were
purchased by the City Council from the showman who had the animals on view
at the Hobart Regatta. They are very fine specimens".
mother thylacine and her three pups that were captured by Walter Mullins
in the Florentine Valley in 1923. They were subsequently displayed
in this cart at country fairs around Tasmania, prior to being sold to the
Beaumaris Zoo. The photo was taken near Bicheno, on the east coast
of Tasmania, by a Mr. H. J. King, of Trevallyn.
According to the late Dr. Eric Guiler, Australia's leading authority on
the thylacine, the mother of the pups either died or was traded
shortly after arriving at the zoo, as nothing further is noted about her.
Of her three cubs, a male pup died within a month of arriving at the zoo
at the end of March 1924 and its body sold to the Tasmanian Museum on the
3rd April 1924. Another of the pups (sex unknown) died in July 1925.
The remaining pup, and this is where the controversy arises, is said to
be the last known captive thylacine, which died on the evening of the 7th
September 1936 after a record twelve years and seven
months in captivity.
It is worth noting at this juncture that an extended life span of this
duration is significantly above that which was typical for the species.
The late Professor Heinz Moeller, Europe's principal authority on the thylacine,
quoted 10 years as the maximum life span for the species in captivity (Moeller,
pers. comm. with Dr. S. Sleightholme, Aug.
Extended longevity aside,
there are other unresolved problems with acceptance of the Mullins group
theory. The Mercury newspaper on the 12th February 1930 (p. 8) states:
"Mr. Clive Lord moved
that the native tiger should be made a partly protected animal for a short
season of each year. The motion Mr. Lord explained, was purposed
to serve as a check on the export of the unique animal. The species
was very rare, even in Tasmania, the only country in which it survived.
There was no specimen in the Beaumaris Zoo and the Museum authorities had
not received a specimen
for over four years".
Clive Lord was the director of the Tasmanian Museum (1922-1933), and his
comment that there were no thylacines in the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) as of February
1930 is significant. This statement immediately eliminates the Mullins
capture of 1924 as Benjamin's source. Further evidence to
reject the Mullins group is provided by the photographs and movie
film footage taken by Dr.
David Fleay of Benjamin on the 19th December 1933.
recently rediscovered photograph of the female thylacine and her three
pups that were captured by Walter Mullins in 1923. Note the defensive
gape of the mother. Photograph courtesy: Rose Lewis (née Mullins)
photo by Michael Sharland taken at the Beaumaris Zoo (QD), circa 1925,
of what is probably the Mullins family group of three females (although
further research is needed to confirm this). Note the individual
in the background with partially amputated forelimb (circled). Another
photo of these individuals is shown
To recall, Mullins snared the mother with the pups still in the pouch.
If we look at Fleay's image of Benjamin below, and specifically
at the right rear leg (circled), one can clearly see evidence of a snare
Beaumaris Zoo (QD), 19th December 1933. Photo courtesy: David Fleay
If this thylacine was the surviving pup from the Mullins litter, it could
not possibly bear the mark of a snare, for it was its mother that
was snared. Finally, it is also worth noting that Alison Reid only
ever spoke of the zoo's last thylacine as having been acquired in the singular,
and not as part of a family group.