.
INTRODUCING THE THYLACINE:
- WHAT IS A THYLACINE? -
(page 4)
.

 
.
    Thylacine joeys leave their mother's pouch at around 3 months of age, and are dependent on their mother's milk to around 9 months.  Little is known about joey mortality within thylacine litters.  Adult thylacines have no natural predators, but the recollections of bushmen state that Wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax), and Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) preyed on their young (Bailey, pers. comm.).  Disease would have also diminished litter size.

    It is known that the first generation of joeys leave the family unit before the next generation exits the pouch.

    The male thylacine has a pouch-like structure (different from the true marsupium of the female) in which the scrotal sac is situated.  It is believed that this "pseudo-pouch" performs both a protective and thermoregulatory role.

    Captive breeding is believed to have occurred on a single occasion, at the Melbourne Zoo in 1899 (Paddle 2000).

female thylacine with pouch bearing young (foreground) - Beaumaris Zoo (QD) (1928)
..
female thylacine with pouch bearing young
.
The two photographs shown above are unique in that they may be the only ones known that depict a female thylacine with a distended pouch bearing young.  The first photo (in which two other adult females are visible in the background) was taken at the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) in 1928.  The source and location of the second photograph (Courtesy: Natural History Museum, London) is unknown.
.
    An epizootic disease, often cited in the literature as being mange or distemper-like, decimated thylacine and other dasyuromorphian marsupial numbers in the latter part of the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth century, persisting into the late 1920s.  Little genetic diversity exists within the thylacine population, and this would certainly have had an impact on the thylacine's ability to resist disease.  As a general rule of thumb, the greater the genetic diversity within a population, the greater that population's ability to resist disease.
.
    Between 1850 and 1936, thylacines were exhibited in zoos throughout Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and India.  There were three primary points of supply for the for the export of live thylacines to zoos within Australia and overseas; the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart (at both its Sandy Bay and Queen's Domain locations), the City Park Zoo in Launceston, and the private menagerie of wild animal dealer James Harrison in Wynyard.  The vast majority of live thylacines were procured by and exported through these three centres.  Based on the Thylacine Museum's own research, the total number of thylacines displayed in zoos is estimated to be 243 animals.  This figure is based on the number of thylacines displayed, and not the total number of
thylacines taken from the wild.  Consequently, the total is somewhat erroneous in that it does not reflect transfers, purchases or exchanges between zoos.  78 (32%) thylacines were exhibited in several zoos and therefore appear in the historical records two or three times.  Therefore, a more accurate estimate of the total number of thylacines taken from the wild is around 165 animals (243 ? 78 = 165).  It must be stressed that this is an estimate, and subject to review as research continues.  There are several historical accounts of thylacines being exhibited in circuses, at least three of which are known to have displayed thylacines in their travelling menageries.  Thylacines were also regularly displayed as penny attractions at country fairs. .
male thylacines - Beaumaris Zoo (SB) (circa 1911)
.
Mrs. Mary G. Roberts shown with two male thylacines at the Beaumaris Zoo (SB), circa 1911.  These are the same two individuals shown here.
.
thylacine - Bronx Zoo (1902)
.
A thylacine at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, circa 1902.
    The last known captive thylacine (popularly referred to by the name of "Benjamin") died at the Beaumaris Zoo on the Queen's Domain in Hobart on the night of the 7th September 1936.  It has been argued that this was the "extinction event" and that this zoo specimen represented the last of its species.  Dr. Bob Paddle (2000), in his book "The Last Tasmanian Tiger", is an advocate of this position.  The alternate viewpoint, championed by the late Dr. Eric Guiler, Australia's leading authority on the thylacine, maintains that this was not the case, and that there is substantial evidence to support the view that the species survived beyond Benjamin's demise. 

    The "Red List of Threatened Species", published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), classified the thylacine as being extinct in 1986 (McKnight 1986).  However, the wealth of sightings from 1936 until the present day, some from highly reputable sources, cast considerable doubt on whether the thylacine can as yet be declared extinct.

    The Thylacine Museum invites you on a journey of discovery to learn more about the thylacine; the most elusive of the marsupial predators.

.
.
References
.
back to: What is a Thylacine? (page 3) return to the section's introduction forward to: Scientific Discovery and Taxonomy (page 1)


Search the Thylacine Museum
Site Map
Website copyright © C. Campbell's NATURAL WORLDS.
Photographs and other illustrations (where indicated) are © C. Campbell's NATURAL WORLDS.
Other photos and images are © their respective owners.
.