and Searches - 1937 to Present-Day
& Brown (1968-1972):
"Having been into
every likely corner of Tasmania, we appreciate how elusive a few thylacines
could be in that country. That we haven't found conclusive evidence
of thylacines does not necessarily indicate that they are extinct.
Rather, it illustrates the enormity of our task. We are powerless
to help thylacines unless we can find them and assess their predicament:
the alternative is that an uncertain case of extinction will become certain".
In March 1968, Jeremy
Griffith and James Malley embarked on what proved to be the most extensive
search for the thylacine to date. The two man team was later joined
by Dr. Robert (Bob) Brown and collectively formed the "Thylacine Expeditionary
Research Team". Since only a short description of this effort has
been provided by Griffith (1972), here will
be cited further details from an unpublished report (Griffith
et al. 1972).
| Jeremy Griffith arrived
in Tasmania, unsponsored, in 1967. He explored areas of the island's
northwest and southwest regions. He was joined by James Malley in
March 1968, who had been researching reports of thylacines over the past
ten years. They conducted an examination of the Whyte River "lair"
site, crossed over the Arthur River to the Balfour Plains that December,
Jeremy Griffith examining an old boiler on the Whyte River, which was thought
to have been the lair of a thylacine.
the River "lair" site, crossed over the Arthur River to the Balfour Plains
that December, and searched the northwest coast to the Pieman River in
February of the following year. Additional trips were made from December
1970 to February 1971. During the first nineteen days, they averaged
around five hours of tracking per day, driving 3,360 km. The area
that had been searched by the Fleay expedition was checked, but yielded
nothing. The land was thoroughly snared, and an even more potent
poison, 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate), was now in use.
only sizable, unspoiled area of land was to the southwest from Macquarie
Harbour to Point Davey. Subsequently, in December 1970, Griffith
and Malley flew into this region with Peter Sims's expedition searching
for Aboriginal carvings. They explored down to Moore's Valley and
the beaches thoroughly, and were eventually transported back to civilization
on a passing fishing boat. Upon hearing of the tracks found at Beulah
in May 1971, Griffith quickly flew back to Tasmania, but found the prints
too indistinct to make a positive identification. He and Malley explored
the Fingal area and accumulated a record of 40 sightings from the previous
ten years. The thylacine research of Griffith and Malley was frequently
impeded by requirements of their regular occupations as well asby the need
to secure funding. They were joined in 1972 by a medical doctor,
Robert Brown, and a centre was established for the purpose of gathering
sightings from the public. From north western Tasmania alone came
a total of 82 reports.
1973, Jeremy Griffith and James Malley were featured in a documentary entitled
"Tiger Country", an episode of the television series "A Big Country",
produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Click the film
icon above to view a short excerpt.
| A previous system of
trail monitoring which used a caged fowl decoy and an automatic camera
had proved impractical. The two investigators were now assisted by
Trevor Briggs, who built six tracking pads which, when triggered by a trap
line set too high to be within reach of a Tasmanian devil, would relay
a radio signal through a television station to the group's receiver.
|an average of 800
km per week through the months of July-December 1972, but despite thoroughly
investigating all areas where reasonable sightings had been reported, he
obtained no results. The King William Range, The Florentine Valley,
and the Hartz Mountains were the only potential areas of possible thylacine
habitation not explored by the end of the five year search.
Griffith and Brown became
completely disillusioned about the possibility of the thylacine's continued
existence. However, Malley took a more optimistic view. He
claimed: "The Tiger...is not extinct...The only evidence I can produce
to back this claim is 20 photographs of indistinct footprints found after
the sighting of a Tiger at Beulah in May 1971. These tracks were
definitely those of a Tiger. However they were not distinct enough
for anyone who was
identification poster produced by the Griffith-Malley-Brown team (1968-1972),
which offered a $100 reward (no longer standing) for tiger tracks.
|not thoroughly familiar with animal
pads to recognize as such. A plaster cast taken at Mawbanna in August
1961 is definitely that of a Tiger. In recent years many clear sightings
have been made by people whom I know personally. I have no doubts
of any sort in their sincerity and honesty. The majority of recent
sightings have been in three areas of the State - the central East Coast,
the Northern part of the Arthur River Basin, and the northern edge of the
Central Plateau" (Griffith
et. al. 1972).
The files produced by
the team are now kept in the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, under
the management of the Curator of Vertebrates. Smith (1982)
mentions that in a personal, written communication received from James
Malley (2nd February 1973), he speaks of a sighting 16 km north of Sandy
Cape. In this instance, there were some indistinct photographs, but
included was a sketch of some tracks which were "spot on in every detail".
Malley also stated: "In figures of sightings I have received virtually
hundreds, 70 to 80% you can't discredit in any way".