(page 8)

    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 exchanges.

    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".

Royal Society's Museum, 1862
Samuel Clifford's 1862 photograph of the Royal Society's Museum, which eventually became the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.  Source: W. L. Crowther Library.

    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 is noted: 

    "The Warden stated that the curator of the City Museum had applied for any native tiger skins or skeletons available".

    Unfortunately, exchange 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".

    Sleightholme provides 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 - Moore Park Zoo (circa 1900-1905)
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.

back to: The Collectors (page 7) return to the section's introduction forward to: The Thylacine in Captivity

Search the Thylacine Museum
Site Map
Website copyright © C. Campbell's NATURAL WORLDS.
Photographs and other illustrations (where indicated) are © C. Campbell's NATURAL WORLDS.
Other photos and images are © their respective owners.