Thylacine Researchers: Sharon West (?–2015)
Pioneer Western Australian thylacine researcher Sharon West began researching thylacine and big cat sightings around 1983. She founded MAAWA (Mystery Animal Association of Western Australia) a decade later in February 1993, subsequently known from August 1995 as MARCA (Mystery Animals Research Centre of Australia). Both organistaions investigated alleged thylacine and big cat sightings across the state, as well as conducted other activities such as producing a monthly newsletter which ran from February 1993 to late 2009, with a one off special edition in December 2010. She died on 1 November 2015. The former website of MARCA can still be found in the Wayback machine, which includes reported sightings and evidence of the thylacine and big cats in Western Australia. There were at least 138 thylacine reports (dated until 1998) on file with MARCA, and which were included in a classic paper by Greg Heberle (Heberle, 2004).
In 1996 she had an encounter with a thylacine or "close relative":
"Jindong, WA 1996
I was driving along a road near Jindong. I had set my video camera up ready to use in the event that an animal may cross the road. Over the years there has been a number of thylacine like animals seen in the area. The time was approximately 5.30pm and the weather was fine and sunny.
I was driving slowly as it was a dirt road when suddenly an animal came out of some thickets on the side of the road, from a distance of approximately thirty metres in front of me. I stopped the car but left the engine running. I thought the animal was a fox until it came completely onto the road.
The animal did not look at me and I thought that it was injured because the hindquarters were low to the ground, compared to the front quarters, but as the animal slowly moved across the road it seemed to lift its hind quarters and walked properly. I realised then that it was not a fox. At this stage I picked up the video camera and aimed it at the animal. Unfortunately, the camera lens was zoomed in and I could not see the animal. I quickly zoomed the lens out and then slowly zoomed in, but by this time I lost sight of the animal.
I looked back to the spot where the animal had come from and I saw another animal in the shadow of an overhanging bush. I kept the camera on the second animal, but it didn’t come out far enough for me to film it clearly.
The second animal appeared to be a baby, and it stood approximately 8 inches high at the shoulder. It appeared to have a dog like head and pointy snout. Its colour was a deep tan and I couldn’t distinguish if it had stripes or not. The tail and the hindquarters were what really took my notice. The tail looked like a stick stuck on the body, and it was thicker at the base where it joined the body. The tail was pointing towards the ground.
I think that when the adult animal appeared on the road with the hind quarters low down it was letting the baby out of the pouch. A thylacine’s pouch opens from the rear and for the baby to get out of the pouch safely. Maybe the mother Thylacine lowers her rear end to the ground so that the baby can almost slide out of her pouch without falling.
All that the video film showed was some movement in the shadows on the side of the road where the baby was. As a research member commented it is like buying a lotto ticket and finding that you have all six winning numbers then discover that you have lost the ticket.
I know that I really stuffed up with the camera, and I was so angry with myself. Even though the adult animal did not appear to have stripes I still believe that what I saw was a thylacine or a close relative to one."
Heberle, Greg. (2004). Reports of alleged thylacine sightings in Western Australia. Conservation Science of Western Australia 5(1): 1-5.
An Animal X episode (1997) featuring Sharon and her own thylacine sighting and search (starts at 13:10):
From the ARFRA's (Australian Rare Fauna Research Association) defunct website:
"Sadly, Sharon West passed away on November 1, 2015. A passionate cryptozoologist, she established the Mystery Animal Research Centre of Australia. Apart from sending out press releases and following up reported sightings of mystery striped creatures that fitted the description of the Thylacine and sightings of big cats she put out a monthly newsletter from February. 1993 to late 2009. In December, 2010 she put out a special edition of the newsletter.Her enthusiasm and passion for researching mystery creatures would be hard to match.
Her son, Leonard West, has compiled the following story of how Sharon became a researcher of mystery animals in Australia.
[Written by] Meryl Tobin"
Source and further reading (biography by her son Leonard West): http://web.archive.org/web/20200925111826/https://www.arfra.org/articles.htm