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HISTORY:
- EXTINCTION VS. SURVIVAL -
(page 12)
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1936 to present (continued):

   Sighting 5.

    "In 1980, a senior timber worker was walking alone one morning in dense mixed wet sclerophyll rainforest in a remote area in the South.  It was windy and light drizzle was falling as he made his way down a steep rocky mountainside, and, at 10am, he disturbed  striped animal upwind about 20 to 30 metres away.  The animal ran from under a large boulder, where it had apparently been lying, across a clearing in front of the observer for about 25 metres, before disappearing.  The animal was dog-like, but in an area where a dog would not be expected, and where no dogs had been seen before or after the sighting.  It was a light greyish colour with 3 to 5 distinct dark brown stripes down its sides.  The stripes extended from the middle of the back to the base of the stiff straight tail".

    Smith concludes:

    "These sightings cannot be easily dismissed as being caused by other animals.  They are not closely related to human distribution nor to traffic movements, but mainly occur in or near areas where habitat, suitable for thylacines is still available.  It has not been proven that the thylacine is extinct, nor that it survives, but the continued occurrence of sightings of thylacine like animals provides some cause for hope that the species still exists".

    To follow are a series of time lines covering the period prior to Smith's report, from the 1930s through to the 1960s.  Within each time line is a series of numbered date lines, each corresponding to a thylacine sighting reported in the local Tasmanian press.

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Place your pointer over the numbered date lines to read the newspaper stories.
(Some scrolling of the page may be needed to allow complete view of larger pop-up windows.)
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1935-1939
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1935
1936
1937
J F M A M J J A S O N D
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1
2
. . . . . 3 . . . .
1938
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . 4 . . . . . 5 . 6 .
1939
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1940-1944
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1940
1941
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . . . . . . . . 1 .
1942
1943
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . . . . . .
2
3
. . .
1944
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . 4 . . 5 . . . . . .
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1945-1949
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1945
1946
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. .
6
7
. . . . . . . . .
1947
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . .
9
10
. .
11
12
13
. . . . .
1948
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . . . . . . 14 . .
15
16
1949
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. 17 . . . 18 . . . . . .
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1950-1954
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1950
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . . . . . . . 1 . .
1951
1952
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. .
2
3
. . .
4
5
6 7 . . .
1953
J F M A M J J A S O N D
8
9
10
11 12 13 . . . .
14
15
. . .
1954
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . 16 . 17 .
18
19
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1955-1959
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1955
1956
1957
J F M A M J J A S O N D
20
21
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1958
1959
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1960-1964
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1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . . . . . . . . 1 .
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1965-1969
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1965
1966
J F M A M J J A S O N D
2 . . . . . . . . .
3
4
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1967
J F M A M J J A S O N D
. . . . 5 . . . . . . .
1968
1969
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Thylacine sightings time lines, 1930s-1960s.
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    An interesting article in the Australasian newspaper of the 23rd March 1940 (p. 36) makes reference to the possibility, albeit remote, of a small population of thylacines residing on Cape Barren Island:

    "Marsupial Wolf on Cape Barren Island? - Recently an interesting letter arrived from Mr. H. W. Pentland, then at a C.R.B. camp near Gerangamete.  The astonishing part of his news lay in the statement that while encamped at a remote rocky part of Cape Barren Island he had seen two of the extremely rare Tasmanian tigers or marsupial wolves.  Though never able to approach closely to these elusive animals, Mr. Pentland often found the remains of their kills.  These were always wallabies and their leg-bones were usually well broken up and eaten away.  Fogs were frequent in the mountainous region frequented by these mystery animals, but Mr. Pentland's enclosed drawing showed that he had seen enough to sketch his impressions, and they bore a distinct resemblance to illustrations of the Tasmanian wolf.  Approximately the size of a dingo, the animals were fawn grey on forequarters and flanks, with rump and hindquarters appearing light yellowish at a distance.  Mr. L. Smith, a friend of Mr. Pentland, has spent many months in the wild southwest of Tasmania, carrying provisions by pack horse to mining camps.  As a man experienced in the ways and appearance of the marsupial wolf his general description of these remarkable looking animals appeared to tally exactly with what Mr. Pentland had seen on Cape Barren Island.  At the present time the general opinion is that the marsupial wolf, tiger or thylacine is confined to the remote southwest of Tasmania, being extremely rare.  No record of its occurrence on any Bass Strait islands has ever been made.  Still the matter is possible should the tigers have been liberated there in previous years.  It is also interesting to remember that the mammalian fauna of these islands is closely similar to that of Tasmania.  Should this note come before the notice of any Bass Strait islander, comments and hearsay on the subject would be most welcome".

    Herb Pearce, a bushman renowned for catching tigers, was interviewed in the 1950s by Dr. Eric Guiler.  In one interview, Pearce confided in Guiler that he had flushed a female thylacine and her three pups from a patch of tree ferns "about five years ago".  Pearce told Guiler that "he turned his dogs on them", but dodged the issue as to whether the tigers were killed.  Guiler suspected that they were.  Pearce's comment is significant in that it confirms that the species was extant into the late 40s.  The area where this incident occurred is now flooded as part of Lake King William.

    In "Precious Little Remains" (Maynard & Gordon, 2014), the book covering the highly successful Queen Victoria Museum exhibition of the same name, is an interesting letter received by the museum in 1999 (p. 98).  It gives detail of a thylacine kill in 1949 made in the Natone / Hampshire area of NW Tasmania: 

    "My father was a bushman.  One night he arrived home, he was both upset and excited.  He put his sugar bag down on the floor and pulled a dead animal from it.  It was still warm.  He said 'I have never seen anything like this before'.  He then went on to say that as he was on his way home from work, the animal had attacked him and no matter how hard he tried to get away from it, it just would not let him get away, so he was forced to kill it with a piece of wood to save his life.  This upset him very much as he did not like to kill animals unless it was for food.  However, his excitement grew as we looked and touched this strange animal.  It had sloped hindquarters.  Although it looked like a dog-type animal it had differences.  Its jaw was long and instead of round it looked a little squarer; across its body it had stripes.  My father had brought home a Tasmanian tiger.  It evidently had pups although he searched for two days he could not find them.  Its mate could have taken them and hidden them.  The Tasmanian tiger was buried in our garden and the year was 1949".

    Thylacines are shy and reclusive animals, and attacks on humans very rare.  It may well be the case that the female that was killed was attempting to protect her young, and perceived the bushman as a threat.  Maynard & Gordon do not elaborate further, but the story poses some interesting questions.  Did the museum investigate the area of the garden in which the thylacine was buried?  Did they recover any skeletal remains?

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References
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back to: Extinction vs. Survival (page 11) return to the section's introduction forward to: Extinction vs. Survival (page 13)


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