photo taken on 27th September 1911 of two male thylacines (an adult in
the background, and a juvenile in the foreground) at the Beaumaris Zoo
(SB) in Hobart, Tasmania. This photograph is often wrongly cited
as being that of a male and female.
| The life span of a
thylacine in the wild is unknown, but has been estimated as being between
five and seven years. In captivity, life expectancy could exceed
| The thylacine is a
pursuit predator; its natural habitat being a mixed mosaic of dry eucalypt
forests, wetlands and grasslands. The thylacine is not a specialist
feeder, and has a broad range of native prey species that make up its natural
diet. From historical accounts, it appears that various
strategies are employed by the thylacine, the choice of technique
being dependent upon the
thylacines are prominently featured in the Tasmanian State Coat of Arms,
designated in 1917 by King George. It is tragically ironic
that the Tasmanians chose as their state symbol the very animal which they
sought to exterminate.
||type of prey being
hunted, and whether the thylacine is hunting alone or as a member of a
larger family unit. Thylacines do not hunt in packs, as is the case
with wolves, but they do hunt as family units.
Following the introduction
of commercial sheep farming into Tasmania in the 1820s, the thylacine was
unfairly perceived as a vicious sheep killer and relentlessly persecuted
through a series of government and private bounty schemes. The government
bounty scheme ran from 1888-1908/9, and that of the Van Diemen's Land Company
(VDLC) from 1830-1914. Numerous local bounty schemes ran in concert
with the government bounty.
|Over the 21-year period that the government
bounty was in force, some 2,184 thylacines
were killed. Over the same period, 81 thylacines were killed at the
VDLC property at Woolnorth in the far northwest of Tasmania. Totals
for the various local bounty schemes do not exist, but a conservative estimate
of around 200+ thylacines killed would be a reasonable estimate.
adult male thylacine at the London Zoo photographed by D. Seth-Smith (1914).
This thylacine was purchased from Mrs. Roberts at the Beaumaris Zoo (SB)
and was resident at the London zoo from 21st November 1910 until its death
on the 25th December 1914. Other photos of this individual:
Courtesy: Zool. Soc. London.
| Historical evidence
confirms that a male / female pair bond exists between thylacines of breeding
age, and that the bond functions within a fixed home range. Little
detail of the reproductive
behaviour of the thylacine is known. Most of what we do
know is based on the fortuitous observations of a small number of naturalists,
the detailed dissections of the reproductive organs by anatomists, and
the historical field observations of bushmen.
Comparisons can also be made from the reproductive behaviour of the thylacine's
nearest living relatives, the quolls (Dasyurus
spp.), and the Tasmanian
devil (Sarcophilus harrisii).
It is now believed that
female thylacines reach sexual maturity at around 2 - 3 years of age, and
males somewhat later at around 3+ years. With
the advent of Devil
Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), in Tasmanian devils, the females are
coming into oestrous earlier. Like the devil, it is arguable that
described as being mange or distemper-like that blighted thylacine
populations at the beginning of the 20th century would have increased pressure
on young female thylacines to come into oestrous earlier.
Sleightholme & Campbell (2014), in their retrospective study on the
breeding season of the thylacine, found that mating (historically) occurred
in the antipodean autumn and winter (April through to September), with
a seasonal maximum positively skewed in favour of the winter months (June
through to August). They found little evidence to support significant
The gestation period for the thylacine is unknown; only educated comparisons
can be made with the thylacine's smaller cousins, such as the Tiger Quoll
(Dasyurus maculatus) and the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii),
with estimates varying from 21 to 35 days.
Historically, females with pouch-dependent young would normally be found
from May through to December, the antipodean winter and spring, with young
at various stages of their development throughout the year.
The female thylacine
possesses a backwards-opening pouch (marsupium)
with four teats. It is highly unlikely that a female thylacine in
her first breeding season would carry the maximum of four
pups (more accurately called "joeys"). It is far more
reasonable to assume that two pups would be the norm, with the litter size
increasing in the peak breeding years and then diminishing as the animal
Tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), one of the thylacine's closest