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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- BENJAMIN: THE LAST KNOWN CAPTIVE THYLACINE -
(page 7)
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Benjamin's gender? (continued):

    In December 2010, Dr. Stephen Sleightholme, the Director of the International Thylacine Specimen Database Project, made a remarkable discovery that finally solved beyond any doubt the 74-year-old gender question.  His findings were published in the December 2011 edition of the Australian Zoologist, in a paper entitled "Confirmation of the gender of the last captive Thylacine"

    Sleightholme meticulously examined each frame of Fleay's movie footage to see if there was any clue that would indicate gender.  The Thylacine Museum's online copy of the Fleay film (which runs for 45 seconds) was used for his research, and so the museum is proud to have contributed to his discovery.

    At first view of the Fleay footage, there is, as Paddle advocates, no evidence to suggest that the animal was male.  David Fleay entered the thylacine enclosure at the Beaumaris Zoo together with Arthur Reid the curator, to take a series of photographs and to record his film.  The presence of a stranger in the enclosure, along with his cumbersome camera equipment, would certainly have stressed the thylacine.  It is on record that Fleay received a bite to his buttock from his reluctant host during filming.  The bite and the wide threat-yawn response seen on Fleay's film were guarded warnings that his presence was not welcome.

    Sleightholme states that in periods of stress, the scrotum would have been held closely within the "pseudo-pouch" that surrounds it, and this would make casual observation of gender difficult.  Assuming this to be the case, he thought it improbable for evidence of gender to be observed when the thylacine was walking around its enclosure.  He therefore concentrated his attention on three short sequences in the film where Benjamin was either seated or lying down.  In one of these sequences, the animal is observed in a seated position, turning its head and displaying its threat-yawn.  It is at this point, where the lower abdomen is clearly visible, that Sleightholme made his discovery.  When the frame is enlarged (see image below), the scrotal sac can clearly be seen, confirming beyond any doubt that Benjamin was male.

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Benjamin - Beaumaris Zoo (QD) - 1933
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Magnified area brightened 34% and contrast increased 70% to improve clarity.
Film still courtesy: David Fleay Trustees.
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Closing comments:

    An article published in the Queenslander newspaper on the 15th November 1934 (p. 40), notes the body measurements of the last known captive thylacine: 

    "The wolf in the Hobart zoo, a fair specimen of its kind, measures 44in. (1.12m) in length with a 21in. (.53m) tail".

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   We now know beyond reasonable doubt that Benjamin was snared by Elias Churchill in 1933, and that it was a large, mature male.

    The Tasmanian winter of 1936 was particularly severe.  Benjamin, the world's last known captive thylacine, died on the night of 7th September 1936 from exposure to the cold; having been left out of his shelter overnight.

    Late in 1937, the City Council decided to discontinue operation of the zoo, stating that its maintenance was "no longer in the best interests of the city".  The Great Depression of the 1930s saw attendance at the zoo steadily falling, and it was finally closed to the public on 25th November 1937.  Today, at both the Sandy Bay and Queen's Domain sites that it once occupied, only a few tenuous reminders of the zoo remain.

In Australia, September 7th is designated as National Threatened Species Day.  Among advocates of the thylacine, it has also come to be known as National Thylacine Day.

Here at the Thylacine Museum, a memorial book is maintained in honor of Benjamin and the rest of his species.  It is available for signing year-round.  Click on the image below to access the book.
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go to: The Thylacine Memorial Book
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sign/read The Thylacine Memorial Book
newspaper article announcing decision to close Beaumaris Zoo
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Source: The Mercury, 17th August 1937 (p. 2).
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References
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back to: Benjamin - The Last Known Captive Thylacine (page 6) return to the section's introduction forward to: The Historical Thylacine Films


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