(page 11)

Expeditions and Searches - 1937 to Present-Day

Griffith, Malley & 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".
Jeremy Griffith (1972)

    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a short description of this effort has been provided by Griffith (1972), here will be cited further details from an unpublished report (Griffith et al. 1972).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, and
possible thylacine lair
Researcher Jeremy Griffith examining an old boiler on the Whyte River, which was thought to have been the lair of a thylacine.
searched 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.
    The 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 Birch's
Inlet, scoured 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. .
view the film
In 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.  Griffith travelled
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

footprint identification poster - Griffith-Malley-Brown team (1968-1972)
Footprint 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".

back to: Expeditions and Searches (page 10) return to the section's introduction forward to: Expeditions and Searches (page 12)

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.