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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- BENJAMIN: THE LAST KNOWN CAPTIVE THYLACINE -
(page 4)
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Historical contradictions (continued):

    According to the statement of stock accounts of Arthur Reid, the curator at the Beaumaris Zoo (QD), two thylacines were in the zoo's collection as of the 31st October 1929, and one at the commencement of 1930.  With respect to the thylacine that died, he records the death as occurring on the 1st November 1929, and notes that its body was sold to the Tasmanian Museum for the sum of £5.  The thylacine apparently died of a kidney disease, but it is highly likely that it succumbed to the mange-like illness that swept through the zoo at this time.

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Benjamin - Beaumaris Zoo (QD) - 1933
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Another image of Benjamin.  Like all of Dr. Fleay's photographs of this individual, this photo was taken on 19 December 1933.
Photo courtesy: David Fleay Trustees.
    Reid's account of the death of the thylacine from kidney disease contradicts the date noted in the Mercury newspaper article by six months.  Guiler (1986) on the other hand, cites the thylacine's death some six months after that of Reid, and twelve months after that of the Mercury article on the 14th April 1930.

    Although not central to our discussion on the source, this apparent confusion over dates demonstrates the difficulties researchers encounter when attempting to ascertain the facts regarding any thylacines that were displayed at the zoo. 

    The Mercury Waratah capture article also refutes the entries for the dates of deaths of the Mullins pups as noted by Guiler in which he cites all deaths post-1930 i.e., 14th April 1930, 1935, 7th September 1936.  The Waratah female is also missing from Guiler's 1986 listing of the thylacines purchased by the zoo between 1910 and 1937.

    With so many conflicting opinions, it is difficult at times to see through the fog to the truth.  To enable us to provide answers, certain assumptions have to be made, and long-standing errors corrected.

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    The Tasmanian press reported everything that was newsworthy on the island.  This is the nature of island communities.  Important purchases by the zoo or donations to the Tasmanian Museum were noted regularly in the press, particularly thylacines.  It is therefore safe to assume that these news stories were verifiable at the time they were printed, and are consequently true reports.

    The late Dr. Eric Guiler's history of "The Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart", published by the Tasmanian Historical Association in 1986, is still considered to be the most comprehensive review of the history of the zoo ever undertaken.  Guiler was Australia's leading authority on the thylacine and the sources for his paper were the diaries and cash books of Mrs. Mary Grant Roberts and the minutes of the Hobart City Council reserves committee.  As with virtually all historical accounts, new information comes to light over time that can challenge the accepted truth.  This is true with a number of the entries in Guiler's account of the thylacines exhibited at the Beaumaris Zoo.  There are errors and omissions within the source records that Guiler, at the time of writing his paper, would not necessarily have been aware of. 

    Dr. David Fleay visited the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) on the 19th December 1933.  Fleay was a highly respected zoologist and an authority on Australia's marsupials.  During his visit to the zoo, he photographed and filmed the last known captive thylacine, Benjamin.  His published comments relating to this visit are therefore of importance.

    In an article entitled "Memories of a Tasmanian Tiger", published in the Courier Mail of the 29th January 1984, David Fleay writes:

    "This last captive specimen domiciled in any zoo (Hobart, 1933) entertained me in his pen for an hour during my visit.  Not long captured and still wearing the springer snare brand about the right hind leg, this long, lean, softly padding animal had an ethereal appearance.  He regarded me incuriously, as ceaselessly on the move; he halted now and then to indulge in the widest yawns I'd ever seen.  The distinctive, darker cross-bands decorating mid-back to tail-base stood out prominently against the overall olive-brown coat colour.  How I longed to get this evidently hungry animal across the Bass Strait for specialised housing and feeding.  However, in those far-back days a mere struggling teacher had no political pull, and the urgency of the species status mattered to no one".

   Fleay's use of the phrase "not long captured" and his observation regarding the snare mark add substance to Churchill's claim. 

    Political changes with respect to the continued existence of the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) were evident post-1930.  The Women's Non-Party League on the 1st March 1931 requested that the Hobart City Council sell the expensive animals within the zoo and cease import / export trading.  In the early 1930s, there was also a growing movement against any further thylacines being captured for display at the zoo.

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newspaper clippings, Hobart - early 1930s

    It was against this growing background of discontent both at obtaining thylacines for display and for the very existence of the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) itself that the final chapter of our story unfolds.

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References
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back to: Benjamin - The Last Known Captive Thylacine (page 3) return to the section's introduction forward to: Benjamin - The Last Known Captive Thylacine (page 5)


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