This April, the hunt is on for researchers looking to confirm the continued existence of the presumed-extinct thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian tiger, following recent reports of sightings of the creature. The last known specimen died in captivity in 1936, at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania. Countless sightings have been reported since, but to date none have been verified.
Researchers will be installing over 50 camera traps in Cape York, a peninsula in Tasmania’s north-east, where the reported sightings took place. One of the researchers from James Cook University, professor Bill Laurance, isn’t optimistic about spotting the creature, due to the low probability that the species would survive with such a low population. But he does say that the descriptions from two recent sightings appear to be promising:
"All observations of putative thylacines to date have been at night, and in one case four animals were observed at close range – about 20 feet away – with a spotlight," Laurance explains.
"We have cross-checked the descriptions we received of eye shine colour, body size and shape, animal behaviour, and other attributes, and these are inconsistent with known attributes of other large-bodied species in north Queensland such as dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs."
A carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian tiger had the size and approximate appearance of a small-to-large dog, and sported tiger-like stripes on its lower back, giving it its nickname. Nocturnal and typically shy around humans, it is theorized that the extinction of thylacines was due to disease, rather than over-hunting.