animal has not yet succumbed to the many factors which have threatened
1936 to present:
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
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
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
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".
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
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,
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
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".
forest, Upper Florentine Valley, southern Tasmania.