Thylacine Expeditions and Searches (1937-present)
In the aftermath of the death of the last known captive thylacine, not long after official "protection", several expeditions were mounted in 1937 and 1938. They collected many reports, but little if any physical evidence of the species' survival. Sadly WWII intervened, and the next major expedition was that of David Fleay in the summer of 1945-46. One wonders what wartime searches might have uncovered. Unfortunately probably nothing, since the abatement of previous pressures on the species should have helped it to bounce back if it was still viable. The fact that we still haven't heard their (supposedly) coughing bark in more than 80 years is good evidence that it is now extinct in Tasmania. Although we can all hold out hope that its stripes provide better camouflage than we realise.
Further afield, although only known prehistorically from both the mainland and New Guinea, modern reports have been consistent and numerous enough that expeditions have been mounted there too. Although it is safe to say that they have not been extensive enough, particularly in New Guinea, to warrant the conservation designation 'extinct'.
Section 1. Brief Details of Expeditions/Searches
|April 1937||Members: Sergeant M. A. Summers, Trooper G. G. Higgs and Roy Marthick.||Barrett, Charles. (1937). Tracking the Tasmanian "Tiger". Weekly Times (Melbourne), Saturday, 10 July, p. 44.|| |
Anonymous. (1937). Move To Preserve Tasmanian Tiger. Advocate (Burnie), Wednesday, 21 April, p. 7.
Anonymous. (1937). Native Tigers. Examiner, Wednesday, 21 April, p. 3.
Anonymous. (1937). Search For Native Tigers. The Mercury (Hobart), Wednesday, 21 April, p. 9.
Anonymous. (1937). Search for Tigers. The Advocate (Burnie), Saturday, 24 April, p. 6.
Sleightholme, Stephen R. and Campbell, Cameron R. (2016). A retrospective assessment of 20th century thylacine populations. Australian Zoologist 38(1): 102-129.
|November 1937|| |
Anonymous. (1937). Tasmanian Tigers Gone West. Examiner, Wednesday, 17 November, p. 7.
Anonymous. (1938). Tasmanian Tiger: Traces Seen By Survey Party. The Mercury, Saturday, 5 March, p. 13.
|Sleightholme, Stephen R. and Campbell, Cameron R. (2016). A retrospective assessment of 20th century thylacine populations. Australian Zoologist 38(1): 102-129.|
|November 1938||Anonymous. (1938). Tasmania Has "Tigers"!: Party Finds Tracks. The Argus (Melbourne), Wednesday, 23 November, p. 12.||Sleightholme, Stephen R. and Campbell, Cameron R. (2016). A retrospective assessment of 20th century thylacine populations. Australian Zoologist 38(1): 102-129.|
|1945/46||November 1945 to March 1946|| |
Hair samples from a trap were examined by Dr. Joseph Pearson (Tasmanian Museum), and confirmed as those of a thylacine. They were subsequently lost and then rediscovered in an envelope by Kathryn Medlock, and tested under microscope as part of the MonsterQuest episode "Isle of the Tiger" by Georgianna Story at Adelaide University. The hairs did not match known thylacine hair (Medlock, 2009).
Fleay, David. (1953). Has the remarkable marsupial wolf finally become extinct? The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), Wednesday, 1 July, p. 7.
"Then in 1945 Mr David Fleay of Healesville, Victoria, took a well-equipped party for four months into the west. The sole evidence they brought back was a photograph of the imprint of a paw, considered to be a tiger’s, in a muddy hollow on a button-grass plain between the Loddon River and Lake St Clair, and a report of hearing a hoarse creaking bark in the bush one night. "
Source: Graves, Kathleen E. (1958). The Rarest Animal in the World. Walkabout 24(4): 15-16.
Medlock, Kathryn. (2009). ‘David Fleay hair analysis’, CNG Productions, Montreal,
Anonymous. (1946). Tasmanian Tiger Expedition Fails. Advocate, Friday, 22 March, p. 2.
|1948?||Anonymous. (1948). Tassie Tiger. Maryborough Chronicle, Thursday, 16 December, p. 5.|
|1949||Mountain River, Huon Valley||"up to 20 men have scoured the bush with guns [for several nights]" (Mercury, 23 March, 1949)||The party of men heard "a terrific growling noise" (Ibid.)|| |
Anonymous. (1949). "Strange Animal Making Queer Noises" Eludes Searchers. The Mercury, Wednesday, 23 March, p. 4.
"A Special Correspondent". (1949). Saving The Tiger. The Advertiser (Adelaide), Friday, 25 February, p. 2.
"Peregrine" [Sharland, Michael S. R.]. (1952). The Search for "Tiger". The Mercury, Saturday, 26 July, p. 15.
"I spent two years looking for the thylacine between 1977 1979 and I'm convinced that they existed then. Not only were there 150 people I spoke to whose sightings I couldn't doubt (there were lots of mis-sightings as well), I photographed some prints of one on the edge of Arthurs' Lake in 1978. When I showed the photo to the then Curator of Zoology at Launceston's Queen Victoria museum, Dr. Bob Green, he said the following: "there are no proper casts of a thylacines' footprints so we can only go on the rather shrivelled up and distorted paws of museum exhibits. But if I was to imagine what one would look like it would look exactly like THAT" as he pointed to the photo.I also believe I was followed by one in broad daylight at Reedy Marsh, North of Deloraine, judging by the strange elongated sitting marks (fresh) left by an animal as it waited for me to return from a dead end across a creek. There had been an amazing sighting nearby just two days before by a young couple."
AIS. (1978). Tasmania paid a bounty for killing its 'tigers'. Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, Friday, 17 November, p. 32.
|1991 (June)||Anonymous. (1991). Search for the Tasmanian tiger finds no hard evidence. The Canberra Times, Wednesday, 12 June, p. 20.|
"A thylacine was reported to have run across a track ahead of a four-wheel-drive at the southern end of Bronte Lagoon. It was seen for just a second or two. A subsequent check by authorities found no footprints."
Source: Wade, Rohan. (2002). Fresh credibility in claims of thylacine sightings. The Examiner, Sunday, 12 May.
|2011||Gilroy, Rex. (2011). The Search for Living Thylacines – Results of the Gilroy 2011 expedition. Mysterious Australia 1(12): 2-22.|
""They'll never be able to get one", says country veteran, F. L. Oliver, now of Adelaide, who spent a large part of his 60-odd years living in Natimuk, just over the Victorian border. From the many thylacines he declares that he has seen in that time, he has discovered much of their habits. "They live in burrows mainly", he said; "you can stake them out for days, but the animals can smell danger, and you won't see them. They are very cunning. I never managed to get one, even when I took out large search parties. Nor did I ever find any remains. But I think they may eat the remains of their dead; for one thing I noticed was that they seemed very fond of bones. A dead 'roo or sheep would have all its bones eaten away in no time.""
Source: Harris, Samela. (1968). Hold that tiger! Walkabout 34(6): 28-31.
|1971||Nannup, Western Australia||"a full-fledged tiger hunt" (Willix, 2017)||No sign of the "Nannup tiger" (i.e. thylacine) was found.||Willix, Pierra. (2017). ‘Tassie tiger’ sighting revives Aussie mystery. Busselton Dunsborough Times, Thursday, 5 January.|
|1973||Queensland||John Winter||The Sunday Mail, A "tiger" hunt in Queensland bush, The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 28 January. [text here]|
|1982?||Grose Valley, New South Wales||"three days of fruitless effort"||Gilroy, Rex. (1985). Trailing a Tiger. Australasian Post, 31 January.|
|1983||north of the Grose Valley, New South Wales|| |
"In September, 1983, I led a search into this region accompanied by expert bushmen Rod Gerney and Robert Ashworth and several assistants in a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles."
| "While searching the muddy bank of a remote swamp for signs of animals, we came across tracks left by various marsupials. We also found two unusual sets of tracks. These superficially resembled those of a dog, but displayed marsupial features. |
Plaster casts were made and later matched with others found in Tasmania in 1974 whose peculiar paw structure identified them as thylacine."
|Gilroy, Rex. (1985). Trailing a Tiger. Australasian Post, 31 January.|
|1984||north of the Grose Valley, New South Wales||February|| |
"About the edge of the swamp I found another set of "tiger" tracks. This animal had walked around the edge of before drinking, then retraced its steps back towards the gully. Later, above the gully, during a detailed search for more evidence we came across tracks of a full-grown animal, an apparent female, beside which were the smaller tracks of a young cub. These tracks were at least several hours old. However in the dense scrub we came across signs of a scuffle over a large area, between a wild pig and a thylacine, as indicated by thee dozens of tracks embedded in the soil.
These were only half-an-hour old and led deep into dense forest. Nearby we found a pile of day-old excrement containing pig bristles and crushed pig bone. Had it been left by a thylacine? It is obvious a colony of six to eight of these creatures exists in the gully."
|Gilroy, Rex. (1985). Trailing a Tiger. Australasian Post, 31 January.|
|Queensland||9 News. (28 March, 2017). New search for the Tasmanian tiger.|