The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database


A Living Ghost: Tasmanian Thylacines, 1930-1936

The 1930's were the last years of known thylacine survival. A very small number of specimens (2 or 3) were held in captivity as the decade opened, including a single specimen abroad at London Zoo. The status of the wild population is much less clear. Wilf Batty shot the third last recorded wild thylacine in May 1930. Thereafter two were caught, and one was used to supplement the tiny captive population. Which was dying at a steady rate, some claim as a result of an unknown epizootic disease. The last known individual died in captivity on the evening of 7 September 1936.




It is universally agreed that these six specimens (some authors accept more) do not constitute the global post-1929 thylacine population. The chances that every surviving thylacine was either killed or caught alive are astronomical. However, anecdotes no matter how genuine or forthright, do not serve as sufficient evidence.

The sex ratio is 4:2. It seems clear that the last known significant breeding of thylacines took place in the 1920's.

The geographical distribution of the species post-1929 is hard to determine. There are, however, no confirmed post-1929 records of the species from anywhere but the north-west. The significance of this is hard to quantify, since it may simply be a result of sampling bias, since there were far fewer people in southern Tasmania at the time. Or it might reflect the true absence of the species from large swathes of the island, including the north-east. We simply do not know.



1 Secondary sources are non-primary sources that are either my own source (if I don't have access to the primary source) or are more accessible than the primary source (if, say, available online or in a popular book).



I would like to sincerely acknowledge a number of people who have helped with invaluable information that has made it possible for me to be as exhaustive as I have with the records presented above. In alphabetical order (by surname): Martin Banks, Camerom Campbell, Gareth Linnard, Mike Williams.