(page 8)

    "The animal has not yet succumbed to the many factors which have threatened its existence".
Michael Sharland (1941)

1936 to present:

  The thylacine is nocturnal and crepuscular, and even in the early days of British settlement, was rarely seen.  It is this elusiveness that many would argue allowed a remnant population of thylacines to survive beyond the demise of Benjamin.  Collar (1998) states: "Over the past few decades there have been enough rediscoveries to warn us against overhasty assumptions of extinction (which may, I suspect, sometimes derive from simplification of the CITES criterion of 50 years without a record)".

    Sleightholme & Campbell (2015) provide an estimate of the total thylacine population at the end of the 1930s: "Based on the total area of occupancy (18,400km2), which equates to a 57% reduction of the thylacine's former range, and Guiler's upper home range estimate of 88km2, we calculate that a total population of 208 thylacines survived into the 1930s, with a theoretical maximum of 416 (if each home range was occupied by a pair).  If the home range estimate is reduced to 60km2, a population of 306 thylacines or 612 (if paired) results, and if the home range estimate is increased to 100km2, a population of 184 thylacines or 368 (if paired) is the result.  Realistically, the population would have been lower than the given maximum, as not all the area of occupancy would have been suitable habitat.  The authors conclude that a population of approximately 300 thylacines survived to the end of the 1930s.  This equates to a population decline of 85% or approximately 2% annually from 1900 to 1939".  Sleightholme & Campbell do not extend their estimates beyond the end of the 1930s, only arguing that the likelihood of the species surviving into the 1940s and beyond was probable.

    As such, an examination of the thylacine's possible survival into the 1940s and beyond is warranted.  One of the most vocal proponents of the thylacine's continued existence is author and researcher Col Bailey of the Tasmanian Tiger Research and Data Centre, in New Norfolk, Tasmania.  Bailey is in a unique position in that he interviewed many of the bushmen that trapped thylacines, and has personally investigated many of the alleged thylacine sightings over the last 40 years.  Therefore, he knows his quarry well.  Bailey argues that the thylacine is extant, and that a small, critically endangered population still survives in the more remote parts of Tasmania to this day.  Bailey (pers. comm., 24th July 2016) states: "All of the known specimens were taken or killed in the settled parts of Tasmania, so it is logical to assume that other individuals existed in the more remote parts of the state".

    To support the continued existence of the thylacine, Col Bailey presents three encounters, one of them his own:

    Lure of the Weld:

    Bailey states: "During the summer of 1993, I received an anonymous phone call alerting me to an elderly man feeding thylacines in the Weld Valley 80k (50 miles) to the south-west of Hobart.  On investigating the report, I uncovered a significant amount of interesting information that was to lead me to coming face to face with a living, breathing thylacine several years later.

    Old Bert's story proved to be a most captivating tale, revealing a thylacine presence deep in the south-west wilderness going back to the 1940s.  He told of how he and his father had discovered the animal while out fur trapping in the Weld Valley in 1946; of how they repatriated two juvenile tigers, and over coming years, discovered a continuing thylacine presence in various locations within the Weld.

    The old bushman assured me thylacines were regularly traversing certain sections of the Valley in the vast primordial and untouched wilderness to the south between Mt Anne and the Snake River.  Now severely restricted by age and ill health from venturing on this long and difficult journey, he encouraged me to embark on what to me would eventually become a cutting edge experience.

    This aging, unkempt, quick tempered hermit lived a secluded and unpretentious life, while harbouring a secret that almost defied logic.  That he should choose to take me into his confidence was one of those strange turns that life sometimes bequeaths upon us.

    In charging me with the responsibility of locating his thylacines, he was, in effect, placing a trust in me that far outweighed common logic.  Considering the thylacine had been supposed extinct over a decade before, Old Bert's resolute belief in an extant population in that far-flung primordial wilderness was unwavering.  He was handing me a mandate I was only too willing to accept, unconditionally, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Eventually locating the area concerned, I entered the chosen land in the autumn of 1995 after a mammoth two day slog.  It was a journey I will long remember for its challenge and danger, as was its breathtaking attraction and splendour.  The thought that kept crossing my mind the whole way was, is it all worth it?  To subject my body to this long and tortuous journey in the first place was akin to an indiscretion that defied description.  But press on I must, for such was Old Bert's forthrightness that I was now so entwined in his story that nothing could prevent me from following it through.

    I was in absolutely no doubt about the animal that crossed my path shortly after dawn on that memorable March morning in 1995.  To that point in time, I had discovered little evidence of an extant thylacine population, but all that uncertainty was about to change.  To stand captivated, stunned, spellbound, call it what you like, looking directly into the eyes of a living, breathing thylacine - the animal that science told us no longer existed - was an inconceivable experience, and one that stamped on me a firm resolve to protect this extraordinary animal from further exploitation and abuse.  Thus, my personal undertaking to share my discovery with no one.  It was a secret I kept to myself for the following 17 years.

    A full account of this story can be read in my second book, "Shadow of the Thylacine", still in print and available from the publishers: Bonnier Publishing Aust., L6/534 Church St., Richmond, Vic. 3121".

Weld Valley, southern Tasmania
Weld Valley, southern Tasmania.

    1998 Adamsfield sighting:

    Bailey states: "My office phone rang early one Monday morning in April 1998, alerting me to a thylacine sighting along the Clear Hill Road between the Adamsfield turnoff and the Gordon River Road in the Upper Florentine Valley of south-western Tasmania.  This long, winding, reasonably graded bluestone topped former forestry road was originally constructed in the late 1960s to service a harvesting programme salvaging Huon Pine prior to the flooding of the newly surveyed Hydro Lake Gordon.  On one side of the road, the dark, tannin stained waters of the lake can be seen lapping a medium forested canopy, while on the other, is the boulder scattered, tree-studded terrain that rises gradually some 3k to a height of 600m through a thickly forested eucalypt and myrtle forest.  The craggy, rock-studded escarpment backing onto the Sawback Range presents a perfect concealment for the thylacine with its shallow caverns and overhangs.

    Frequent thylacine sightings along this stretch of the Clear Hill Road gave this particular sighting a certain air of veracity, thus necessitating an urgent appraisal of the surrounding area, rather than a Laissez-faire type of response.

    The caller, Bob Hardy, described himself as a 25 year old bushwalker-photographer on his way home after spending two or three days exploring the old Adamsfield mining site and surrounding countryside.  He insisted he was not there to search for animals, but rather to capture the diversity of the flora and fauna on film with his SLR camera.

    Bob described how he was travelling back along the Clear Hill Road shortly after dawn at around 40kph when a dog-like animal darted across the road from the lakeside to his right before disappearing into the bush to the left.  He described how the animal paused momentarily on reaching the opposite side of the road and stood staring back at the car before moving out of sight amongst the undergrowth.  This, he told me, gave him an excellent look at it, and he was in little doubt as to what it was".

    Bailey: "I want you tell me what you can remember seeing, or as much of it as you can recall."

    Hardy: "It was about the size of a full grown male Labrador dog, a medium shade of brown with a longish stiff-looking tail.  Its head looked a bit oversized compared with the rest of it."

    Bailey: "Anything else that you can remember?"

    Hardy: "Yes... and there were these dark stripes.  A good few of them along its back.  I distinctly remember those.  I can't remember how many, as I didn't have time to count them... but there were definitely stripes."

    Bailey: "Now, you're absolutely sure about that?... the stripes I mean."

    Hardy: "Yes, positive.  No worries there, mate.  It was a tiger all right.  No mistake about that... oh, and it had this long, stiff-looking tail."

    Bailey: "And how long would you say that you had it in view??

    Bailey [comment]: "There was a pause as Bob pondered the question for a few seconds."

    Hardy: "Oh, I reckon it must have been around 15-20 seconds... something like that."

    Bailey: "And one final question for you, Bob.  What gave you the idea it was a Tasmanian tiger?" 

    Bailey [comment]: "There was no pause on the other end of the phone. He waded straight back in with his answer."

    Hardy: "Are there many Tasmanians that don't know what this animal looks like?  Now I ask you, are there?"

    Bailey states: "Although I tried not to reveal my true feeling about this report to Bob, I was, nevertheless, elated.  It was the third believable report from that section of road I'd received over the past 12 months, so I decided to concentrate more on the area over the coming months.  It was about this time that my corridor theory began to take shape.  Over the coming weeks I spent much time thoroughly exploring the surrounding countryside for clues of a tiger presence.  Apart from a bivouac of three days, I made sure I spent at least a day each week in the area searching for clues.  Along the way, I discovered several potential hide sites between the road and the Sawback Range escarpment, a distance of some 3k rising to around the 600m mark.  Searching back in my records, I discovered that some years before, an elderly prospector, camping along the Sawback Range, heard the unmistakable calls of a Tasmanian tiger early one morning.  And this within a few km of Bob's sighting.  And what of the host of sighting reports I'd received from log truck drivers carting Huon pine salvaged from the rising waters of Lake Gordon, all claiming to have seen tigers in the Serpentine impoundment area almost within earshot of this spot?  It all began to add up.  Then came that magic morning I scented a thylacine along the same Sawback escarpment line.  Although the animal had vacated the scene before I could catch up with it, I was only seconds away from striking gold.  The scent was pronounced and distinct, and on later summing up the situation, I realised I had been working slap-bang in the middle of a thylacine corridor and never comprehended it.  It was only then that my corridor theory began to make sense; the realisation that these animals work within the confines of passageways throughout the bush in a given territory.  This particular sighting then, presented legitimate ramifications of a thylacine presence in that immediate area.  Working on the corridor theory, I reasoned tigers were moving through there on a regular basis with a possible turnaround of 6-8 weeks.  And then of course, there was that tantalising photo I have of the feet of a thylacine shot near Adamsfield in the early 1990s".

old-growth forest, Upper Florentine Valley, southern Tasmania
Old-growth forest, Upper Florentine Valley, southern Tasmania.
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