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HISTORY:
- PERSECUTION -
(page 1)
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    "As humans usurp more and more of the Earth and the natural world continues to shrink, carnivores will bear a disproportionate toll of the effects.  This is because carnivores tend to have larger home ranges, more extensive movements, and longer dispersal distances than their prey, so their spatial requirements bring them into greater contact with humans.  Furthermore, carnivores tend to conflict directly with human interests because of the proclivity of many of them to kill animals that humans use themselves".
L. Dave Mech
Chair, IUCN/SSC Wolf Specialist Group
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

    The early British settlers introduced sheep into Tasmania in commercial numbers around 1820.  The breed of choice was the small but hardy Merino, renowned for the fine quality of its wool.  In a matter of a few short years, pastoralists began to unfairly brandish the thylacine as a vicious sheep killer, and the flame of persecution was ignited.

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Merino sheep
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Merino sheep.
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    In an article headed "Van Diemen's Land News", published in The Australian newspaper of the 22nd November 1826 (p. 2), are the early stirrings of resentment against the thylacine that would eventually lead to the introduction of the various bounty schemes:

    "One of these ferocious looking animals, which, in appearance, much resemble a tyger about the body, and wolf about the head, was a few days since killed by some sheep dogs on the farm of Mr. Nairne, at the Coal River.  When it was opened, two young lambs were found in its inside, apparently not long been devoured.  It was remarkably fat and large; and is now lying at the stores of Mr. Bethune, at the Wharf.  We never before understood that these species of animals (male & female), are in a certain respect formed by nature similar to the kangaroo.  The females bring forth their young in the same manner, and have also a false belly, in which they for some short time carry their progeny.  Although these animals are by far less numerous than the native dog in New South Wales, if the increase of them is not stopped in time, they may become formidable.  We would suggest then, that a reward of some description should be given by the Government to pay everyone who shall destroy and bring into town a native tyger or hyena".

    That thylacines killed sheep there is no doubt, as historical witness will testify:

    "Last week a male animal of the same species of that which some time ago destroyed a number of sheep on the premises of E. LORD, Esq., at Orielton Park, made its appearance among the flock of Mr. G. W. EVANS, Deputy Surveyor General; at Bagdad; it had at different times within a week killed thirty sheep.  It was attacked by seven dogs, and made a stout resistance, till at length it was killed with an axe by the stock-keeper".
Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter - 6th December 1817 (p. 2).

    "NATIVE TYGER, OR HYENA - On Sunday last, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, as one of the shepherds belonging to Mr. Edward Abbott, jun. was looking after his master's flock, while grazing at his farm, at Russell's Falls, near New Norfolk, the sheep were suddenly frightened at the sight of one of these ferocious animals.  They immediately ran down a hill; and the man, having a dog with him, soon perceived the Hyena pursuing the flock right a-head, when he made a sudden spring among the sheep, and fastened upon a lamb, which he immediately killed.  The man then ran up with his dog; but the Tyger made off before he could reach the spot: the dog however shortly after came up with the Hyena, when he turned round and attacked the dog, who, with the assistance of his master, at last managed to kill him.  The lamb was rather large, about 6 months old.  The Tyger measured 6 feet from the nose to the extremity of the tail; and is the second one that has been killed on nearly the same spot within the last twelve months".
Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen's Land Advertiser - 3rd November 1821 (p. 2).
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    "Mr. Frank Archer, of Landfall, informs us that a large native tiger, or hyena (Thylacinus cynocephalus), was killed a few days ago not far from Launceston.  Mr. Archer's shepherd at Russell's Plains was out on the run, and found a sheep that had been just killed.  He sent his dog away, and hearing it barking he hurried up and found the dog and a very large native tiger having a severe fight.  He shot the tiger, which measured 5ft. 4in. from the nose to the tip of the tail.  It had killed four sheep previous to this".
The Launceston Examiner - 6th July 1885 (p. 2).

    "Last week an enormous tiger was captured on the estate of Joseph Bayles, Esq., Auburn, River Isis.  It measured six feet in length.  This bush monster had destroyed five sheep, leaving his hiding place on the Western Tier, paying a visit every alternate night, but ultimately it was secured and killed.  Two others of a smaller size were subsequently shot.  These nocturnal prowling animals commit great havoc amongst the flocks of our woolgrowers, especially in those localities where the estates are situated in the direction of the thick bush tiers".
Geelong Advertiser - 10th February 1865 (p. 3).

    "The marsupial wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus) gives some trouble in the Fingal district, both in the tiers under Ben Lomond and their continuations, and on the opposite side.  At Storey's, near Ormley, I heard of one being surrounded and killed not far from the house, and another, quite recently, came in to what may be called almost a road-side paddock and worried a sheep and bit a lamb's tail off.  This one sprung a snare on his way out, but escaped, a third got away with a trap up in the tiers.  I hope he likes the ornament.  By all accounts these brutes are becoming more numerous in many directions, and occasionally show in day time".
Launceston Examiner - 3rd September 1887 (p. 2).

    "I caught many of them some years ago when residing on the East Coast of Tasmania.  At that time they were numerous enough to make it necessary to snare systematically the back run fences to protect sheep.  When once they found sheep they returned every 48 hours for another kill" - W. F. Crace-Calvert (shepherd).
The Mercury, 25th February 1949 (p. 3).

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    "It was while stationed at a place called The Island, on the Macquarie River, near Pooms Lake, following his calling as shepherd for the late Mr. William Burbury, that Mr. William Burbury, that Mr. Willett fully realised what a serious menace to successful sheep farming the Tasmanian tiger
became.  From the Eastern Tiers, on the one side, and the Western Tiers, on the other, great numbers of this dreaded animal invaded sheep runs, and heavy losses were recorded.  In many cases sheep had to be removed from certain more infested areas.  Mr. Burbury's losses in three consecutive seasons were 450, 350, and 300.  A reward of £1 a head, when exhibited to the police, or any member of the committee formed by the pastoralists, marked the beginning of the end for the tiger, and its numerous descendants, for today, if any survive, it can only be in the fastnesses of the mountains, far from the haunts of man.  Sheep, on their bedding grounds, or resting places, at night, were an easy prey to the cunning tiger, whose method of attacking them appeared to be mainly by the neck, from which the blood was sucked; and an entrance made near the brisket.  The dead body of an animal had no .
Mr. Weaver bags a tiger - 1869
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Among the most famous of all thylacine photographs, this one is entitled "Mr. Weaver bags a tiger".  Taken in 1869, it is one of only two 19th century thylacine photographs known to exist.  An unusually large albumin print made from a wet plate negative, it was created through a complicated and time sensitive developing process.  The photograph was possibly taken by Victor Albert Prout, the inventor of the panoramic camera, who visited Australia between 1866-1874.  The only older photograph of a thylacine known to exist is the recently rediscovered 1864 image by Frank Haes of an animal at the London Zoo (Sleightholme, Campbell & Kitchener 2016).
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attraction, seemingly, for the tiger, and it was this habitual yearning for fresh meat that constituted the gravity of the position so far, as the flock master and shepherd were concerned, for it meant invariably the killing of another sheep for the tiger's next meal; once the habit was acquired by it for the taste of mutton".
The Mercury, 13th September 1937 (p. 9).

    "If it is a fact, as many shepherds say, that every tiger destroys two sheep a week at least, a very simple calculation will explain the loss of a few thousand sheep every year, and also point to the necessity for putting down these vermin".
The Mercury, 3rd June 1885 (p. 3).

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References
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return to the section's introduction forward to: Persecution (page 2)


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