The date 7 September 1936 is widely regarded as the day when the world’s last remaining Tasmanian tiger – also known as the thylacine – took its final breath in a zoo in Hobart.
But how long did the last few dog-like striped carnivorous marsupials stick around out of sight in Tasmania’s wilderness? A few years? A couple of decades? According to a new analysis of 1,237 observations and claimed sightings of the animal since 1910, the thylacine may have hung on into the late 1980s and possibly even longer.
Published in peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment, the research took all the observations and gave them a quality score, from reliable records backed by a physical specimen – alive or dead – to sightings by experienced bushmen or fleeting glimpses from untrained eyes.
Prof Barry Brook, of the University of Tasmania and lead author of the study, has been working for five years trying to determine the timing of the thylacine’s extinction. He said just looking at records of confirmed kills, captures or sightings by past hunters or wildlife professionals suggested a likely extinction date between the 1940s and 1970s. But he said rather than throw out later observations, the study had included them in their modelling while heavily downgrading their likelihood of being genuine.
Using this approach, the findings conclude that the likely extinction date was in the late 1980s to the early 2000s.
Read more about the research here.