|Churchill's hut saved for posterity:
In 2006, Col Bailey, a friend and contributor to the Thylacine Museum rediscovered
the location of Churchill's hut. The hut, although still standing,
was at risk from nearby logging concessions and in urgent need of restoration.
Bailey, who had interviewed Churchill in 1969, took it upon himself to
have the hut listed and preserved for future generations. To his
credit, Bailey succeeded, and conservation work began on the structure
in 2007 with a grant provided by Tourism Tasmania.
Elias Churchill's hut
(2006). Photo courtesy: Col Bailey.
In 2007, conservation
work was carried out on Churchill's Hut with a grant provided by Tourism
Tasmania. Photo courtesy: Col Bailey.
Not only was the source of Benjamin disputed, but opinions, until
rather recently, were divided regarding this individual's sex.
As noted in the introductory comments, Robert Paddle, in his book "The
Last Tasmanian Tiger", states that the name "Benjamin", and
therefore the implied sex of the animal, were derived from a dubious interview
given by Frank Darby.
Paddle asserts that none of Fleay's photographs or film footage of Benjamin
any indication that the animal was male. He notes that the scrotal
sac of the male thylacine is pendulous and would normally be evident when
the animal is relaxed, and argues that it is reasonable to assume that
the absence of such an obvious sign of maleness implies that the animal
Fleay with a mother platypus (on the right) and her baby at the Healesville
Sanctuary, Victoria, in 1944. Dr. Fleay
was the first to succeed in breeding
the platypus in captivity.
Photo courtesy: David Fleay
The alternative position in the debate is that Benjamin
was a male. In a newspaper article published by David Fleay in the
Melbourne press (Australasian, 20th January 1934 [p. 43]) one month after
his return from Hobart he states:
"First & foremost
is a fine male marsupial wolf, actually the sole member of its kind in
captivity today". He continues,
"The big fellow in the zoo
was not a safe companion inside his enclosure, and while photographs were
being taken Mr. Reid had to ward him off continually with a paling".
Note Fleay's choice
of words "big fellow" and "him", confirming that the animal
was male. In the September 1963 edition of the National Geographic
Magazine, Fleay once again confirms the thylacine's sex:
marvelled at the creature's huge jaws 'opening almost to the ears'.
Some idea of this is conveyed in the photograph I took of the last one
ever kept in captivity. This male specimen, fed on horse meat and
hungry for variety, sidled up to me as I knelt in his cage and slightly
attempted to add my leg to his bill of fare" (Fleay 1963).