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Three Tasmanian Tigers Tigers in Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart, 1910

The Tasmanian Tiger

It took a mere century of white settlement to push the Tasmanian Tiger to the brink of extinction. Feared and misunderstood, European settlers killed it whenever they had the chance.

As big as a medium-sized dog, the Tasmanian Tiger, or thylacine, had sandy brown fur with dark brown stripes across its back and rump. They largely fed on wallabies as well as small animals and birds and were Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, a title now held by the Tasmanian devil. As a marsupial, Tigers were more closely related to possums than to dogs.

A shy animal, the Tasmanian Tiger was mute for most of the time, however they made a series of husky, coughing barks when excited or anxious and when hunting gave a distinctive terrier-like, double yap, repeated every few seconds. Unfortunately there are no recordings, though some locals claim to have heard the sounds of the tiger hunting at night.

The thylacine was rarely seen to move fast and when it did it appeared awkward. It trotted stiffly and when pursued, broke into a kind of shambling canter. When hunting, the thylacine relied on a good sense of smell and stamina – not speed - pursuing its prey relentlessly until the prey was exhausted.

Shy and secretive they would avoid human contact, giving hope to those who believe the tiger is still alive deep in Tasmania's wilderness areas today.

The tiger's end was considerably hastened with the growth of Tasmania's sheep industry and the consequent introduction of a bounty by the Tasmanian Government in 1888 that saw 2000 scalps paid between 1888 and 1909.

Since its official extinction in 1936, there's been no conclusive evidence of their continued existence, however reported thylacine sightings continue to this day. Most sightings occur at night, in the north of the State, in or near areas where suitable habitat is still available. Although the species is now considered to be 'probably extinct', these sightings - and 'hearings' - provide some hope that the thylacine may still exist.