Search for Thylacines: “A Triumph of Hope…”

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 14th, 2008

The Science Show has published a transcript of their recently broadcast program on “Tasmanian Tigers.”

The program description details what is covered:

“Catherine Medlock describes the Tasmanian Museum’s collection of young Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tigers. The museum has five of the nine specimens in existence. They were extinct on the mainland 5,000 years ago and were only found in Tasmania until more recent times despite reports that they are sighted from time to time. Nevertheless, there is no evidence they
persist. The last Thylacine died in the Tasmanian zoo in 1936.”

As their interview concludes, Catherine Medlock, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Macquarie, St Hobart, Tasmania, and her interviewer had this exchange:

Robyn Williams: When was the last time you had some sort of report that they are there still in the wild? It must be ages.

Catherine Medlock: Oh, the museum isn’t actually the place to collect those reports however we do hear of them every now and again and there’s certainly people out there searching for them and these people will never give up.

Robyn Williams: A triumph of hope over experience.

Catherine Medlock: A triumph of hope over experience yes, but the fact is there really has not been any solid evidence since the last one died in the Zoo in 1936. I would certainly like to think they are still there and given the recent introduction of the fox to Tasmania and knowing how difficult it is knowing that foxes are there to actually capture an animal, carnivores are very good at hiding so I’m doubtful, but you never know.

Robyn Williams: Catherine Medlock and if you do have a living Tasmanian Tiger take it straight to her at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, smack in the centre of Hobart, I’m sure she’ll be terribly pleased.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Search for Thylacines: “A Triumph of Hope…””

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    Why does man have to wait until a species becomes extinct to try to undue the damage done by past generations.Since the museum has specimens the thylacine genome should be deciphered.Perhaps genetic science will advance to the point, that this extinct species can be brought back to rejoin the Animal Diversity Web.

  2. DWA responds:

    About what we should expect, and I’m not talking about Cynical Science here.

    Like the eastern cougar, the thylacine is documented and its behaviors pretty well recorded by humans who interacted with them, and whose accounts, obviously, were taken seriously. One would think – as I tend to think about the cougar, part of whose problem was that it’s so easy to tree when beset by dogs – that if the observed behaviors contributed to its apparent extinction, it doesn’t exactly seem to be the rule that holdouts adopting distinctly different behaviors to avoid human detection are what we should expect.

    In the interest of equal time, I suppose that European brown bears (and maybe we can add the American grizzly to this) HAVE adopted a different mindset toward humans. The Lewis and Clark journals speak of numerous “unprovoked” attacks, something that doesn’t seem to happen with brown bears now. At least not as frequently as one might expect. Maybe, as someone once put it, the biggest baddest and boldest get selected out of the gene pool, and the ones that remain are the shy and furtive. Our species radar is set for the former, and we flat miss the latter. Villagers living at the edge of brown bear habitat in the Italian Abruzzi, for example, were shocked to find out about their neighbors from biologists, despite their reliance on bear-tempting industries like agriculture and livestock.

    I find it much easier, though, to accept the possibility of cryptids like the yeti or sasquatch (do tell!) than of the thylacine. (Eastern cougar? Well, we still have plenty of western ones, and cougars need huge territories.) The hairy hominoids have NEVER been accepted by Europeans, with the result that we haven’t pursued them the way we have the ones we accept.

  3. plant girl responds:

    This was a beautiful animal! I only hope that by some chance it is still out there. If it does still exist I only hope that it stays hidden so the wrong people dont find it.

    But as my math tutor would say hope is not a strategy. and that is why i got a c-.

  4. kittenz responds:

    The range of thylacines was once vast as well: from New Guinea to Tasmania including Australia. I have a lot of hope that there may be a few thylacines left in some secluded pocket or pockets within that former range. I recently saw another video of what might be a thylacine (probably isn’t though 🙁 ) at, and there have been several sightings since 1936 by reliable people.

    I hope that they survive. It’s terrible that the last one in captivity died from neglect and exposure, and that no one thought to secure a captive population to continue the species.

    As much as I wish that large carnivores could always be free, the sad fact is that their time in the wild seems to be running out. As I type this I was just reading that there are thought to be fewer than 2,000 tigers left in India – and India has the largest wild tiger population of any country. At least the tigers and other carnivores in responsible captive breeding programs will ensure that their species do not go completely extinct.

    Maybe, when and if living thylacines are found, this time around, people will value them and take measures to save them.

  5. Gary the Cat responds:

    Watching that actually bought a tear to my eye.
    Why on earth did people want to kill off such a fantastic creature?
    And then I remember it is still happening.
    I truly hope they do still live in the deep forests of Tasmania or the unexplored wastes of Australia, and they are savvy enough to stay away from mankind for ever more.
    May they stay a legend for the over zealous hunter.

  6. cryptidsrus responds:

    Hope springs eternal…

    She was a little bit too negative at the end, I think.


    I guarantee if they were to be found alive all efforts would be made (especially legislative-wise) to protect the creature.

    At least, I hope it would happen. One never knows.

  7. drjon responds:

    It’s a good article, apart from the flat-out rejection of Tiger reports, soe of which are very good and damned solid.

  8. youcantryreachingme responds:

    According to Robert Paddle’s book, the evidence for thylacines persisting on the Australian mainland into the 1830s includes: one early scientist personally inspecting the remains of 2 thylacines – one from South Australia, and one killed in the Blue Mountains; a lecture delivered in South Australia which notes that just as in Tasmania it was found necessary to issue a bounty to rid South Australia of the pest; the oral history of indigenous Australians includes references to the thylacine right up to this time; a centenarian (lived over 100 years) Aboriginal person who died in 1919 recalled seeing them as a child.

  9. Blue Mako responds:

    “and that no one thought to secure a captive population to continue the species.”
    Or they tried and were unable to breed them in captivity, as happened with quite a few now-extinct species…

    “Why on earth did people want to kill off such a fantastic creature?”
    In the name of protecting their livestock, iirc, the same reason humans have waged war on predators for since time immemorial…

    On a positive note, it’s worth mentioning several marsupials *have* turned up after being missing for longer than the thylacine has been, iirc…

  10. kittenz responds:

    According to The Last Tasmanian Tiger: The History and Extinction of the Thylacine by Robert Paddle, thylacines did breed and produce living offspring in captivity at least once, at the Melbourne Zoo in 1899. So, sadly, the fact that no captive breeding population was secured is probably a result of apathy and unconcern, rather than failed attempts to preserve the thylacine through captive breeding.

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