| The skins and skulls
of thylacines killed for bounty were also in demand as museum specimens,
but few of these specimens were accompanied by source data. The two
Tasmanian museums procured an unknown number of bounty specimens for use
In the minutes of the
Royal Society dated 5th July 1892, the proposed purchase of bounty specimens
by the museum is noted:
"The Curator stated
that as several applications had been received from the different Museums
asking for specimens of Native Tigers, and not having many in duplicate,
he had met the Minister of Lands who had informed him that if the Trustees
would pay a pound a head he would instruct the different wardens to forward
specimens when brought to them for the Government reward, to the Museum.
The Curator was instructed to thank the Hon. the Minister and inform him
that they would be prepared to pay the sum asked for, for a limited number
of 15, provided they were good specimens".
Clifford's 1862 photograph of the Royal Society's Museum, which eventually
became the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Source: W. L. Crowther
In the minutes of a
meeting of the Glenorchy Municipal Council recorded in the Mercury newspaper
of the 3rd August 1888 (p. 3), it states:
"A circular was read
from the Minister of Lands with reference to the skins of native tigers,
which he wished preserved as far as possible for Museum purposes - Ordered
to be acknowledged".
In the minutes of a
meeting of the Ross Municipal Council published in the Mercury newspaper
on the 13th March 1897 (p. 4), the response to a request for assistance
in acquiring thylacine specimens by the Tasmanian Museum was noted:
"A letter from Mr.
Alex Morton, Curator of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, requesting
assistance in obtaining specimens of Tasmanian tiger, devils, etc, was
read. The Council Clerk said that it would be possible to send tigers'
heads occasionally, if such means of disposing of them was approved by
the Government when claims were sent in for rewards for the destruction
of the animals. It was resolved to write to Mr. Morton to that effect".
Morton's request to
the Ross Town Council for tigers was successful. In a letter
to a Mr. Percy dated 31st May 1901, he states:
"Yesterday at a meeting
of my Trustees I got you your account for the Tiger payment and now enclose
you a Postal Note for the pound. On examining the Tiger, which was
a female, I noticed that she had quite recently young in the pouch.
I daresay the party who captured her threw away the youngsters. No
matter how small they are it is always well to leave them in the pouch.
Very many thanks for the trouble you have taken in the matter; will be
glad to get any more you can, and will pay the price to £1 each".
In the minutes of the
Longford Municipal Council published in the Launceston Examiner of the
12th March 1897 (p. 3), a request to supply the City Museum (Queen
Victoria Museum & Art Gallery) with thylacine skins and skeletons
"The Warden stated
that the curator of the City Museum had applied for any native tiger skins
or skeletons available".
records no longer exist to permit retrospective tracking of these bounty
specimens from their point of capture into museum collections.
Dr. Sleightholme, the Project Director of the International Thylacine Specimen
Database, states (pers. comm. 1st March 2016):
"Work on the 6th
revision of the ITSD has now begun. We are confident that virtually
all of the surviving thylacine specimens have been located, so we are now
concentrating our efforts on the restoration of provenance for these specimens.
This is far from being an easy task, but by cross referencing historical
newspaper capture and kill reports with museum and zoo records we are achieving
some degree of success".
the following example:
An example of the restoration
of provenance can be found with skull M1821 in the Australian Museum collection.
In the accession records of the museum, the sex, accession date (02/01/1906),
and donor (Zoological Society of NSW) are recorded, but nothing further
is noted about this specimen.
Thylacine at Moore Park
Zoo, circa 1900-1905. Courtesy: Australian Museum.
The Zoological Society
of New South Wales operated two zoos - Moore Park and Taronga. It
was from Moore Park that this specimen was sourced. It was originally
thought that only two thylacines were displayed at Moore Park, the first
being in 1885. This is now known to be incorrect, and up to five
thylacines may have been displayed at the zoo.
The capture of Moore Park's fourth thylacine is recorded in the Examiner
newspaper of the 13th March 1900 (p. 4):
"For some time past
the managers of the Zoological Gardens, Sydney, have been desirous of securing
a Tasmanian tiger. On Sunday, Mr. Stephenson, manager of the Williatt
estate, on the North Esk, captured a fine specimen of a young native tiger,
which he brought into the city yesterday and placed in the local zoo for
safe keeping until the departure of the S.S. Wakatipu for Sydney".
The North Western Advocate
and the Emu Bay Times of the 13th March 1900 (p. 3) also carried a report
of the tiger's capture:
"A fine specimen
of a young Tasmanian tiger was captured on the Williatt Estate, North Esk
River, yesterday, and will be forwarded to the Sydney Zoological Gardens,
the managers of which have been desirous for some time past of obtaining
one of the Tasmanian species".
This thylacine died
in 1905, and entered the museum's collection in 1906.
These historical newspaper
reports have enabled the full provenance to be retrospectively restored
for this skull in the Australian Museum's collection.