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Tasmanian Tiger

Updated on February 1, 2012

Also known as the Thylacine or Tasmanian Wolf, the Tasmanian Tiger is the largest marsupial carnivore in the world.

It is possible that the thylacine (and the Tasmanian devil) were displaced from the mainland by the dingo brought by the Aborigines; the dingo did not reach Tasmania.

It is included in the family Thylacinidae, and is found only in Tasmania. The animal generally hunts at night and formerly attacked domestic livestock and poutlry; as a result it was hunted to the verge of extinction by 1914.

The last zoo specimen died in 1936 and in 1938 went on the protected species list. A case of 'too little, too late. While there have been numerous rumored sightings, no living Tasmanian Tiger has been captured since 1933 or any credible photographic evidence.

Physical Characteristics

The head and body of this dog-like animal measure 1.1 meters, and the thick-based tail 53 cm. The muzzle is long and narrow but the powerful jaws can be opened to a very wide gape. The hind-legs are relatively long when compared with those of a dog but despite old accounts there is no evidence that it moves like a kangaroo. The general colour is olive brown and there are about 16 dark brown transverse stripes on the hind-quarters and lower back. Thylacines were formerly widespread on the mainland and in New Guinea: a skeleton found in a cave on the Nullarbor Plain in 1963 was only a little over 3,000 years old.

The Tasmanian tiger fed on sheep, poultry, and other animals. Mating occurred in spring, and about a month later the female bears from two to four blind hairless pups. As in other marsupials, the pups are carried about in a special pouch, where they continued to develop.

How To Wipe Out An Entire Species

When Europeans colonised Tasmania thylacines were common in open woodlands in the north east, but because the animal attacked domestic livestock a bounty was placed on it by the Van Diemen's Land Co. in 1836.

In 1888 the government introduced a bounty for the whole of the island and between 1888 and 1909 paid for 2,184 dead animals. After 1910 no animals were killed for the bounty, the numbers having fallen sharply after 1901.

The last zoo specimen died in Hobart shortly before World War II. In 1957, however, apparent thylacine tracks were discovered on the island, and since then apparent hair and dung specimens have been found. A thylacine lair has been reported and also several sheep killed in the thylacine manner: the offal eaten, and the jugular vein severed for the blood.

At one time it was present not only in Tasmania but also on the Australian mainland and in New Guinea. Today, if it has survived, it is the rarest animal in the world.

Although these animals have been protected since 1938 and there are many claims of individuals being sighted, there is no confirmed recording of a live thylacine being seen since the 1930s. It can only be hoped that the indications found in remote parts of Australia are eventually proved to be valid.

The Tasmanian Tiger in it's Hollywood big screen debut feature length film

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    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      This is a really awesome hub! I wrote a hub that briefly discusses this and I referenced yours for those who won't more extensive research.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Awesome hub!

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