Prompted by comments found in Norman
Laird's papers, Carol Freeman (2005) published a paper in the Australian
Zoologist entitled "Is this picture worth a thousand words? An analysis
of Harry Burrell's photograph of a thylacine with a chicken", in which
she argued that the thylacine shown in the images was not a living animal,
but a taxidermied specimen, staged and photographed on Burrell's Namoi
property, near Manilla, New South Wales. Freeman contends that the
photographs were subsequently retouched to remove any visual evidence of
In response, Robert Paddle (2008) published a paper in the Australian
Zoologist entitled "The most photographed of thylacines: Mary Roberts'
Tyenna male - including a response to Freeman (2005) and a farewell to
Laird (1968)", in which he countered Freeman's claims by providing
evidence that the thylacine in Burrell's photographs was indeed a living
specimen, and further, that it was photographed at the Beaumaris
Zoo (SB) in Hobart around 1911.
Freeman's assertion that Burrell's thylacine photographs were retouched
for publication is not in doubt. Below are two cropped images of
the same thylacine. The image on the left has been retouched considerably
to better define its features, including the removal of the shadow over
the lower half of the tail.
V8227 cropped (retouched).
V8227 cropped (original).
Paddle argues that the subject of the Burrell photographs is the male thylacine
that Mary Roberts (founder of the Beaumaris Zoo) purchased from the bushman
Bill Power on 12th August 1911. The animal was snared near Tyenna,
and its capture was recorded in the Mercury newspaper of 14th August 1911
"On Saturday forenoon there was some excitement caused at the Shamrock
Hotel by the exhibition of a Tasmanian tiger, which had been captured at
Tyenna, and sent to the licensee (Mr. Trebilcock). The animal was
subsequently added to the Beaumaris Zoo, Mrs. Roberts becoming the purchaser
thylacine (Tyenna male), 1911.
The Tyenna male was, as Paddle rightly notes: "the most photographed
of thylacines". The stripe pattern of the thylacine, like the
human fingerprint, is unique to each individual. This makes the process
of identification between the Burrell and Roberts thylacines one of direct
pattern comparison between Roberts's and Burrell's thylacine.
(comma-like tail stripe), blue
(bifurcated third stripe), and green
(extended 4th stripe with J-shaped termination).
It can be seen with respect to the total number of individual stripes and
the unique stripe pattern identifiers, that the two thylacines represented
in the photographs are, as Paddle states, one and the same. Even
the faint tracery of the collar, obvious in the photograph of Roberts's
thylacine, can also be seen in the Burrell image. The only apparent
difference is that the Roberts thylacine is in its winter coat, and that
of Burrell, its summer coat.