Researcher Sandra Abell said she had received a “ridiculous” number of emails following international media attention on the search for the long thought extinct marsupial, also known as the Tasmanian tiger.
Among the biggest names to express excitement over the announcement was evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who took to Twitter, saying: “I so want it to be true.”
Dr Abell said she was now going through reported sightings to determine which ones could be credible.
“I can’t give away specific (location) details because we want to keep it quiet if we do find them, we want to protect them in that area,” she said.
“We are finding new species of vertebrates on the Cape every year ... it’s not entirely impossible.”
JCU announced plans to conduct surveys for the animal (pictured) on Cape York recently following credible eye witness reports.
The search also comes at the same time another long lost mammal – the New Guinea highland wild dog – was rediscovered in PNG.
Extinct creature sightings are piling up in Australia
Multiple reports of Tasmanian Tiger sightings are starting to flow in from everyday citizens in Australia. Several people have recently claimed they’ve spotted the animal, which isn’t a tiger at all — and, despite looking very much like a species of dog, isn’t of canine lineage either — but a carnivorous marsupial. Spotting an interesting creature in Australia isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, but there’s one problem with these reports in particular: the Tasmanian Tiger is supposed to be extinct.
The last known Tasmanian Tiger was captured in its native Australia in 1933 and lived for a few years in a zoo before dying, and its death has long been thought to be the final nail in the species’ coffin. Australians have occasionally claimed to have spotted the dog-like animals over the years, but the sightings were typically rare and attributed to nothing more than misidentification. That’s all changed now, as several “plausible sightings” are beginning to give life to the theory that the animal never actually went extinct at all.
Now, scientists in Queensland, Australia, are taking action in the hopes of actually finding evidence that the Tiger is still around. If confirmed, it would be an absolutely monumental discovery, considering the animal’s history. The team plans to set up cameras in areas where reported sightings have taken place in the hopes of confirming the claims.
In the late 1800s there were actually bounties on Tasmanian Tigers in Australia, and the creatures were hunted to the brink of extinction before any action was taken. By that point, the species was thought to be doomed, and when the last captive animal died it was assumed that was the end of the road. Now, it appears that might not be the case after all.
Fresh hunt for Tasmanian tiger, nearly 80 years after ‘extinction’
The thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has been officially extinct for 80 years. Now, reported sightings have set Australian scientists on a fresh search for the animal.
Although native to Tasmania, the thylacine was not really a tiger but a carnivorous marsupial. The last confirmed report of a sighting in Tasmania was in 1930, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the last captive animal died in 1936. A post on the IUCN website says the thylacine was driven to extinction primarily by direct persecution, but habitat loss, competition with domestic dogs and disease all played a role.
The newly reported sightings have taken place in mainland Australia: in Queensland. The field survey, undertaken by James Cook University, will be led by Dr Sandra Abell, using more than 50 high-tech “camera traps” to survey prospective sites, according to a post on the university website.
The post describes co-investigator Professor Bill Laurance’s discussions with two people in north Queensland who have “provided plausible and detailed descriptions of animals that could potentially be thylacines”. “One of those observers was a long-time employee of the Queensland National Parks Service, and the other was a frequent camper and outdoorsman in north Queensland,” Professor Laurance is quoted as saying.
The thylacine had the general appearance of a large dog, except for its stiff tail and abdominal pouch. Dark stripes that radiated from the top of its back, similar to those of a tiger, led to its unofficial name. It is believed to have been a shy, nocturnal creature, its extinction hastened by the arrival of European settlers.
In mainland Australia, the thylacine is believed to have been near-extinct for centuries. In Tasmania, the last captive thylacine died in Hobart zoo three years after its capture in 1933. Photos and videos of this last known specimen, named “Benjamin” but possibly female according to some suggestions, are in wide circulation on the internet.
Several sightings have been reported over the years but none was conclusively proven. Now, scientists find the newly reported sightings “plausible”. “We have cross-checked the descriptions we received of eyeshine 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,” Professor Laurance says on the James Cook University website.
National Geographic Australia quotes one of those who reported a sighting. “These animals, I’ve never seen anything like them before in my life. They were dog-shaped… and in the spotlight, I could see they were tan in colour, and they had stripes on their sides,” former tourism operator Brian Hobbs told the magazine.
“Can it be true?” tweeted Richard Dawkins, the English ethologist and popular science author. “Has Thylacinus been seen alive? And in mainland Australia not Tasmania? I so want it to be true.”