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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- JAMES HARRISON - TASMANIAN ANIMAL DEALER -
(page 2)
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    All of Harrison's thylacines were procured in North West Tasmania, many by well known bushmen.  The likes of A. R. "Dick" Rowe, Almer Saward, Alf Forward, Frank Upston, Dick "Boy" Evans, Harry Wainwright, Ray "Turk" Porteus, Roy Anderson, Tom Harman and Adye Jordon all supplied live thylacines to Harrison.
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map of northwest Tasmania showing the known points of capture of fourteen of Harrison's thylacines
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Map of northwest Tasmania showing the known points of capture of sixteen of Harrison's thylacines.

Sources: 1) Elliott (Examiner, 6/3/1917 p. 3), 2) West Takone (Melbourne Zoo minutes, Oct/Nov 1929), 3) Meunna (Interview - Kath Doherty - daughter of Frank Upston - Archives Office of Tasmania, AOT NS 896/37, Thylacine Competition Entry, Doherty, 2/9/1981), 4) Mawbanna (Examiner, 1/5/2005), 5) Brittons Swamp (Bell, 1965), 6) Arthur River (Advocate, 20/3/1928 p. 4), 7) Arthur River (Malley & Brown Interview, 1/10/1972), 8) Arthur River (North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 13/5/1916 p. 2), 9) Salmon River (Forward & Harman capture, Circular Head Chronicle, 11/8/1926 p. 5 & Mercury, 24/8/1954), 10) Marrawah (Almer E. Saward capture 1, Guiler, 1986), 11) Trowutta (QVMAG thylacine reports - Harrison, Ref: TAHO NS463/1), 12) West Montagu (Almer E. Saward capture 2, North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 7/6/1917 p. 4 / Dick Evans capture, Moeller archives), 13) Irishtown (North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 23/7/1910 p. 6), 14) Arthur River Mill (Ken Willoughby capture, 1930, Thylacine Expeditionary Research Team Archives, 4/10/1970, QVMAG), 15) Lapoinya (Kaine capture) (Dr. S. Sleightholme [interview with descendant]).
Satellite image: Google Earth.

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    In an article (source unknown) in the Moeller archives, Dick Evans states the details of his thylacine capture:


    "During the winter of 1912, my brother Bill and I had snares set for wallaby in the bush near our parents' home at West Montagu.  Bill was then at school, a lad of 11 years of age.  I was 14.  I had left school before the age of 13.  Fortunately, on a particular Saturday morning, we decided to change runs and so I was the one destined to check the lasso type snares set in bush behind my sister Verina North's home.  As I approached one snare I suddenly froze to the spot and my hair literally stood on end, for to my utter amazement, I was face to face with a three-quarters grown Tasmanian Tiger.  It was caught in the snare by its foot.  At the sight of me the tiger fought frantically to free itself.  For me, this was a prize catch and there was no way I was going to let it get away.  Making quick decisions, I dashed with lightning speed back to the previous snare.  Taking that snare, I hastened back, grabbed the tiger by its stiff kangaroo-type tail, and holding him thus, I managed to slip a noose round his neck.  Once I had him firmly tied by the neck. I proceeded to tie his mouth shut.  When I arrived at our place, I dumped him on the back doorstep and called to father, who was eating breakfast to come and see.  Father and I took him down to the barn where we put a dog collar around his neck and tied him up with a trace chain to a beam of the shed.  We had him there for a week and fed him on bits of wallaby and water.  We contacted Jimmy Harrison of Wynyard, who ran a bit of a zoo and he agreed to pay £10 if we could get it up to him.  When the cheque eventually arrived it even had the threepence exchange added to it.  Father built a crate and made a muzzle for the tiger.  Then we crated him up and took him to Smithton in a 2 seater jinker to catch the mail car.  But when we got there we found the crate too large to fit on the running board of the car.  We had to transfer him to another box while we made the crate narrower, and so it was the next day before we got him away.  Jimmy Harrison sent the tiger to the Hobart Zoo".

    Harrison's surviving notebook provides us with a rare insight into his business practices.  He appears to have been meticulous in recording the details of his sales, purchases, and travel arrangements, and kept a running balance of his day-to-day accounts.  Harrison's notes that he supplied Albert Le Souëf (the director of the Taronga Zoo in Sydney) with marsupial rats in spirit, with the intestines removed, at 10/- each.  There are also several references to skulls (unspecified) and skins (unspecified), indicating that in addition to live animals, he also supplied specimen material to order. 

    An interesting entry in Harrison's notebook for 1927 notes a quote to supply 4 devils at £3.10/- and 3 tigers at £75 each to the Perry Brothers circus.  Several circuses had thylacines on display in their travelling menageries, notably Wombwell's, St Leon's and the Fitzgerald Brothers (Sleightholme & Ayliffe, 2013 [ITSD Project Summary, p. 17 & 94]), but there is no evidence to suggest or confirm that this order was ever fulfilled.

    Within his home in Wynyard, Harrison had his own private museum, consisting of three rooms in which he proudly exhibited numerous mounts and skins of Tasmanian marsupials, including 15 thylacine skins and 4 mounted specimens.

    Harrison not only had first-hand experience with thylacines in the wild, but also personally secured, or helped to secure, at least three live specimens:

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i) "Snaring for tigers back of Trowutta.  After five days caught one by the front paw which was broken.  He kept the animal in a cage with splints on the paw, and after four days the tiger would come to him to have the paw attended to".
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ii) "Once caught a tiger which he tied up, and carried back alive on his back".
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iii) "Caught one tiger in a hemp snare.  It chewed through several 2" pegs, but not the snare rope". 

    With reference to the second capture, the Advocate of the 2nd July 1927 (p. 2) notes:

    "Many years ago", Mr. Harrison states, "a friend of his was out in the moonlight on a winter's night, waiting to get a sitting shot at a kangaroo, when he saw running towards him a kangaroo at great speed.  He fired and knocked the kangaroo over.  The animal jumped up and ran away, when, to his astonishment, he saw four animals like young dogs following the kangaroo, and uttering a short, snappy bark.  These proved to be a litter of tigers, three-parts grown.  He shot one, and Mr. Harrison helped carry it home".

    Walter Blackwell of Wynyard was married to one of James Harrison's daughters, and recollects several stories on Harrison when interviewed in 1951.  He said of Harrison:

James Harrison - Wynyard, Tasmania (1924)
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James Harrison carrying a wallaby across a road.  This image is from a motion film taken in Wynyard in 1924; almost certainly, the only movie footage of Harrison in existence.  Courtesy: Archives Office of Tasmania.
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    "Harrison once wanted to catch a tiger, so hired a horse, bought another for £1, and set off for the Arthur River.  At a point 1 mile below its junction with the Hellyer River, and 1 mile from it, he shot the packhorse for bait, and set snares all round it.  That night he camped on the Arthur River, and next morning he returned to find he had caught a beautiful tiger.  This took place about 20 years ago.  Before that, Harrison and two other men camping on the banks of the Arthur heard a strange noise, sounding like a dog.  A wallaby came down the opposite bank, and swam across it towards them, followed by a tiger which
began to swim after it.  Harrison in his excitable way, began shouting out to his friends that there was a beauty for them to catch, but of course the tiger, hearing the commotion, turned and swam back again.  Another tiger caught by Harrison in a snare had its skin cut right round its neck and one front leg by the snare, except for a small gap at the top of the neck.  The tiger was kept in a cage at his home and after six weeks the wound had turned septic, so he contacted Dr. Muir, who came and syringed the wound out with Lysol.  There was a rapid improvement and after another fortnight the tiger used to come to the front of the cage to be treated.  Harrison took it over to Melbourne and sold it to a Melbourne Doctor as a pet for £25.  The specimen was caught in the Hellyer area near Parrawe about 16-18 years ago".
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References
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