|1936 to present
Secondary evidence in the form of sightings, even from the most credible
of sources, is unlikely to be considered sufficient proof by the scientific
community of the continued existence of the thylacine. Without the
production of a body, a live capture,
or a clear photograph, the extinction / survival debate is unlikely to
be resolved. It is therefore left to the reader to examine all of
the available evidence and to come to their own conclusion regarding which
side of the debate they stand on.
Island homes like Tasmania
are often the last bastions of endangered species, protected as they are
by the natural barrier of the sea from introduced animal pests and diseases,
and in many respects, from man himself. These islands are nature's
arks, and for man to disturb the delicate balance within these communities,
by placing unnatural pressures on a species or its environment, will over
time weaken populations sufficiently to force a species into extinction.
Let us hope that the thylacine, against all odds, has managed to escape
If we have learnt anything
from the thylacine's encounter with man, it is that erroneous and exaggerated
judgments about the animal's perceived threat to livestock were made, and
decisions were taken upon those misconceptions that directly contributed
to and hastened the animal's demise.
The thylacine's legacy,
should it be proved to have become extinct, can only be that of a greater
understanding of the fragility of island populations, and the relative
ease to which such populations can be destroyed.
Finally, a word of warning
must be sounded when the "extinct" label is prematurely applied to a species,
as such a designation inevitably leads to the withdrawal of conservation
effort. It is fitting that we quote the late Dr. Eric Guiler's (1985)
closing comments in his book, "Thylacine: The Tragedy of the Tasmanian
Tiger", to conclude this section:
"It never ceases
to surprise me that since 1936 it has been lamely accepted that the thylacine
was extinct or nearly so, even in the face of persistent sighting reports,
some of which will stand considerable critical examination. This
is a Tasmanian tragedy and it is disappointing that no world fauna body
has sponsored a thorough search for them, the rarest of the world's mammals".
The thylacine was always
elusive; perhaps this is still the case.