The youngest physical remains of the planet’s final Tasmanian tiger, also known as the thylacine, have recently been rediscovered after nearly a century’s absence. Indeed, the unnamed creature was held captive in Australia’s Hobart Zoo, on the island of Tasmania, until it passed away on September 7, 1936. Understanding the severity of the loss, the zoo donated the creature’s remains to a local museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). While the museum’s staff managed to successfully take the specimen in for analysis, it seems that their recordkeeping and cataloging procedures were less than stellar. Up until very recently, generations of museum staff had believed that the Tazmanian tiger’s remains had somehow become lost, discarded or stolen away.
Now, some 85 years later, it seems that the remains were far closer than anyone had expected. The creature’s hide and skeleton were recently discovered within a cupboard located on the museum’s premises. In short, the creature’s remains were preserved but improperly cataloged. Robert Paddle, an individual who published a book regarding the thylacine’s extinction, remarked that there had been no recording of thylacine materials from 1936 in the museum’s records.
Paddle and one of the museum’s curators stumbled upon an unpublished report from a taxidermist that inspired a thorough investigation of the museum’s various collections. This inquiry eventually led them to investigate a cupboard within the facility’s education department. Kathryn Medlock, a curator affiliated with the museum, explained to the press that the thylacine’s body had been made part of a traveling exhibit but the staff of the time did not yet realize it belonged to the last example of the creature. Indeed, the main reason it even made it into the traveling display was the superior quality of its skin; it was believed that there were still examples of the creature roaming about the bush.
The female thylacine’s hide and skeletal system have now been put on a rather prominent display within TMAG’s facilities. It is believed that she died of exposure to the cold when a zoo employee failed to bring her indoors.
A Brief Overview of the Thylacine
While the creature’s species used to be quite prominent throughout Australia, the population numbers diminished due to the double threat of human encroachment and predation from dingoes. Eventually, this decline hit such a dearth that they could only be found across the island of Tasmania-this isolated terrain, combined with the series of stripes across its back, is how the creature’s nickname of “Tasmanian Tiger” came to be. Despite being referred to as a tiger, the thylacine was a species of carnivorous marsupial whose final members eventually went extinct, due to some combination of hunters seeking out the few remaining within the wild, disease or natural causes.
- Other names for these creatures include “Tasmanian wolf,” due to its relatively canine physiology and several Aboriginal names specific to Tasmania, including coorinna, loarinna, can-nen-ner and kaparunina in the constructed aboriginal language of Palawa kani.
- The thylacine was rather unique in that was one of only two marsupial species to have a pouch regardless of gender; the water opossum of the Americas, which is still alive, being the other.
- The first scientific recording of a thylacine was made in 1808, 16 years after the first human encounter with one.
- A Tasmanian tiger that was named Benjamin, though no such name appeared in what records the Hobart Zoo maintained, holds one distinction for those curious about these carnivores. Benjamin’s likeness is preserved in video footage from 1933 that is maintained by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. While the footage is completely silent, it is in color and shows the animal yawning, walking around and lounging about its enclosure of wood and chicken wire.
A Bit More on the Zoo
While the Hobart Zoo, initially named Beaumaris Zoo when it opened in the 1800s, donated the thylacine’s remains in 1936, the zoo would meet its own end a year later due to insolvency. The site was later used as a fuel depot for the Australian Navy between 1943 to 1991, then reverted back to the Hobart City Council’s control for use as a storage depot.