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THE THYLACINE IN CAPTIVITY:
- JAMES HARRISON - TASMANIAN ANIMAL DEALER -
(page 4)
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    In addition to the Beaumaris Zoo, Harrison also sold thylacines and devils to Melbourne Zoo.  The Advocate of the 17th March 1934 (p. 3), in an article entitled "Specimens for the Zoo", notes:
 
    "Mr. James Harrison of Wynyard (Tas.) has been on a visit to Melbourne.  Mr. Harrison is known as the West Coast naturalist, and has supplied the Melbourne Zoo with both Tasmanian devils and marsupial wolves, or tigers.  There is a ban on the exportation of these animals.  The Tasmanian tiger, long persecuted as a sheep killer, now enjoys some protection.  Naturalists fear for the future of the species, but Mr. Harrison says it has strongholds in the wild north-western part of the State".

    The Advocate of the 20th March 1928 (p. 4) records the captors, place of capture, primary purchaser (Harrison), and estimated age of one of the last wild-caught thylacines:

    "Mr. James Harrison, who takes a keen interest in native flora and fauna, is in possession of a fine type of young Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine.)  The animal, which Mr. Harrison estimates is 12 months old, was caught in a rabbit trap by Messrs. Chester and Hope, who are prospecting at the Arthur River, and conveyed to Wynyard, where it was

James Harrison with platypus - Wynyard railway station (1938)
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James Harrison holding a taxidermied specimen of a platypus at Wynyard railway station, 17th January 1938.
Courtesy: Archives Office of Tasmania.
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purchased by Mr. Harrison.  In its efforts to free itself the animal broke one of its front legs, by which it was caught, but the injured member has been placed in splints and Mr. Harrison is hopeful of it knitting.  Although caught only on Saturday morning last, the animal appears to be quite tame, and will in all probability be on exhibition, at the show tomorrow". 

    Guiler (1986, p. 155) notes that Mr. Bruce Walker of Wynyard recalled that his father, Dr. Walker, was called to Harrison's home to set the bones of the foot of a thylacine, which had been broken in a snare.  He remembered it as being the last animal captured in the district.  This specimen was in all probability that caught by Chester and Hope.

    Harrison records in his notebook that on the 11th May 1928, he supplied a "tiger" to Professor Colin MacKenzie of the Australian Institute of Anatomy for the sum of £12.  This was a dead juvenile specimen.  Another "tiger" was also available for sale at £50 (probably the Chester and Hope capture), and MacKenzie purchased this live specimen for the Melbourne Zoo.  In addition to thylacines, Harrison's notebook also records that he supplied MacKenzie with 4 tiger cats (quolls), 11 bandicoots, 2 devils, and 5 rat kangaroos on the 20th June 1928 for the sum of £21.10/-. 

    The Ballarat Courier of the 5th June 1914 (p. 4) details the circumstances surrounding the capture of three young thylacines that were purchased by Harrison and subsequently sold to the Melbourne Zoo:

    "Recent arrivals at Melbourne Zoological Garden are three young Tasmanian wolves (Thylacine).  These marsupials were brought from the island State by Mr James Harrison of Wynyard; who obtained them from a trapper.  The Tasmanian wolf is hated by farmers and others who own sheep because it preys on the animals.  The war against the sheep killer has been waged for long, and to districts where it was once numerous the wolf is becoming rare.  It roams over the colder parts of Tasmania.  The mother of the three young animals at the zoo was found dead in a snare with one of her offspring.  A careful search resulted in the discovery of the other cubs.  The parent was not killed by the snare, but drowned.  Endeavouring to escape, she fell into a pool and could not get out".
Daily Telegraph, 8th June 1914
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Daily Telegraph, 8th June 1914 (p. 4).

    These thylacines were those caught by A. R. "Dick" Rowe at Britton Swamp, west of Christmas Hills, in northwest Tasmania.  In an interview given by Dick Rowe in 1951, he stated: 

    "Somewhere between 1910 & 1912, probably about 1912, helped catch 4 thylacines on the edge of the Britton Swamp, West of Christmas Hills.  Wallaby snares set along a ditch by Jack Rowe.  Adult female was found drowned in ditch, and three cubs alive in nearby snares.  To test the theory that Tigers have a stiff back, the mother was skinned, and the carcase left to rot where it was caught.  It was observed that the vertebrae were just the same as any other animal.  The carcase is still probably there.  The skin was sent to a Mr Popowski to be tanned, but unfortunately he chopped off the carefully dried tail and paws.  An adult male was observed several times in the vicinity at the time, circling people on the track, but departing as soon as it was observed.  The three cubs were kept in a large cage (about 12 foot by 15 foot) on Rowe's farm for 3 to 4 months, waiting for a good price to be obtained for them.  Eventually they were sold to James Harrison for £5 each.  Everyone was impressed with the fact that each just fitted into a kerosene case to be sent away".

    The Daily Telegraph of the 8th June 1914 (p. 4) reports on the Rowe capture:

    "Tasmanian Wolves: Last week Mr James Harrison, of Wynyard, received word that some Tasmanian wolves had been trapped at Smithton.  He immediately went down, but found that a full grown was killed, but three cubs were secured unhurt.  These Mr Harrison took to Melbourne by the s.s. Oonah, and a wire was received on Friday stating that the animals have been purchased for the Melbourne Zoological Gardens.  Mr Harrison is a strong advocate of protecting marsupials for a period of seven years, as at the rate they are being killed now they will soon be extinct".

    Bushman Adye Jordon captured a juvenile thylacine at West Takone in June 1929.  The animal was purchased by Harrison, who then sold it to the Melbourne Zoo in October 1929 for the sum of £45.  It died on the 18th July of the following year.

    Harrison was further charged with the task of obtaining two additional thylacines for the zoo in 1934, as noted in an article entitled "Fauna Board", published in the Examiner on the 22nd August 1934 (p. 11):

    "The Director of the Zoological Gardens, Melbourne, wrote thanking the board for permitting his council to obtain one pair of Thylacines in addition to other specimens of Tasmanian fauna for inclusion in the new Australian section of the zoo.  The condition imposed by the board that the Thylacines should be returned on demand was accepted.  An order for two specimens of Thylacine, in addition to other Tasmanian fauna, has been placed with Mr. J. Harrison, of Wynyard, who has been granted a permit by the board to forward specimens to the mainland".

    Prior to Melbourne Zoo's instruction to Harrison to source the thylacines, the zoo had attempted to purchase them independently by advertising in the Tasmanian press:

    "MARSUPIAL TIGERS - wanted urgently.  Pair or more, uninjured, preferably young.  Liberal price.  Zoological Gardens, PARKVILLE, MELBOURNE".

    Even for a man with Harrison's extensive contacts and resources, he was unsuccessful in obtaining any further thylacines for the zoo.

    An article entitled "Tasmania's Beasts", published in the Muswellbrook Chronicle of the 29th March 1934 (p. 5), refers to James Harrison snaring a dozen "tigers" and "devils" near Cradle Mountain in 1934:

    "Working in the dense forest near Cradle Mountain, in Tasmania, early this year, J. Harrison snared about a dozen "tigers" (a species of marsupial wolf) and "devils" (an animal resembling a large dog).  Last month he took a pair of each to the curator of the Melbourne Zoo, who paid him £30 for them".

    Despite the journalist's reference to the marsupial wolf, the "tigers" that Harrison snared were in fact Tiger quolls (Dasyurus maculatus).

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References
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