Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger
than 60 years ago, in a chain-link cage at the Hobart Zoo, in
Australia, a creature with a five foot long, low dog-like body
died. Its death marked the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger.
Ever since that specimen died in captivity, there
have been sporadic but unconfirmed reports of tigers being sighted
in the wilds near their old habitats. In 1995, a park ranger
spotted what looked like a Tasmanian Tiger in the Pyengana region
of Tasmania. Two years later, villagers in two remote mountain
towns on the island of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, reported a pack
of six or seven of the creatures were attacking the villager's
chickens and pigs.
A hundred years ago the tigers (which are not
cats at all, but marsupial wolves) were common on the Island
of Tasmania. In the distant past they also populated the continent
of Australia, and perhaps many of the surrounding islands, but
became extinct about 2000 years ago as they were pushed out
by competing animals.
They carried their young in pouches as do other
marsupials like the kangaroo and the koala. They also sported
a long, heavy, kangaroo-like tail. The name "tiger" comes from
dark strips that ran across the flanks of the creature's yellow-brown
fur. The animals were also referred to as Tasmanian Wolves,
or thylacines (their scientific name is Thylacinus cynocephalus).
The tigers' primary food source were small mammals
like wallabies, kangaroos and rats. The tiger's feet left a
five toed print which is similar, but easily distinguished from
a dog's. Dogs have only four toes. While the creatures looked
fierce because of their large heads and wide jaws (opening larger
than that of any other mammal), they were actually shy and retiring.
The largest of them grew six feet long, including the tail,
and they stood two feet high at the shoulder.
the end of the 19th century as humans moved into the tiger's
territories, conflicts arose. Farmers blamed the tigers for
livestock losses. Development of cultivated land also interfered
with the animal's habitat. A bounty was placed on the creatures
and thousands of them were killed. By the time the Australian
government moved to protect the tigers, it was too late.
Most of the recent reports of Tasmanian Tigers
come from the Island of Tasmania, a state of Australia, which
lies just south of the eastern portion of the continent. Tasmania
covers 26,383 square miles and about a half-million people live
there. There are still wild sections where the creature could
In 1995 the government launched an investigation
to try and find the tiger. Also, many amateur cryptozoologists
have searched for the animals. So far, if the tigers are still
alive, they have evaded science's eyes.
Copyright Lee Krystek
1998. All Rights Reserved.