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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- BENJAMIN: THE LAST KNOWN CAPTIVE THYLACINE -
(page 2)
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The Mullins family group (continued):
 
Tyenna - circa 1900
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The town of Tyenna, circa 1900.  Courtesy: Moeller Archives.
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    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 with three young - 1923
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The 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. 2004).

    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.

mother thylacine with three young - 1923
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A 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) (private collection).
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Beaumaris Zoo (QD) - circa 1925
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A 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 here.
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    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 mark.
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Benjamin - Beaumaris Zoo (QD) - 1933
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Benjamin.  Beaumaris Zoo (QD), 19th December 1933.  Photo courtesy: David Fleay Trustees.

    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.

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References
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back to: Benjamin - The Last Known Captive Thylacine (page 1) return to the section's introduction forward to: Benjamin - The Last Known Captive Thylacine (page 3)


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