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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.