The Tasmanian tiger that roamed the jungles of the Australian mainland over 2,000 years ago and those of the island of Tasmania until about the 1930's, has been declared extinct since the early 1980's. But that hasn't stopped reports of 'sightings' in both areas. Unfortunately because the people that purportedly saw the tiger were caught off-guard, there have never been any clear pictures or videos to prove that it is indeed the ancient animal. Now, a group of International researchers have arrived in Tasmania to scout the forests and solve the mystery of whether the tiger is alive or extinct, once and for all.
Led by Mike Williams a naturalist at the Centre for Fortean Zoology in New South Wales, the team that comprises of ten members will commence the first of the eight or nine expeditions they plan to conduct in the next two years, shortly. Traveling in two powerful four-wheel drive vehicles that are equipped with both still and video cameras and powerful binoculars, they will traverse the dense jungles in the northwest and southwest parts of the state for two weeks, targeting areas where previous sightings have been reported.
In addition to searching for the tiger, the group also plans to keep an eye out for feral foxes and Tasmanian Devils (like Taz from Looney Tunes) that may have escaped the facial tumor disease that has wiped out a large population of the carnivorous marsupial that is indigenous to Tasmania.
While many experts are skeptical about the naturalists finding this long extinct tiger, the one thing they all acknowledge is that if the animal is alive, this team will find it. That's because it includes amongst others, United Kingdom's Dr. Chris Clark and Richard Freeman who have previously conducted searches for giant anacondas in Africa and even the Indonesian equivalent of Big Foot on the island of Sumatra.
The last known member of the Thylacine (Greek for dog headed pouched one), the Tasmanian tiger, that resembles a medium to large dog, once freely roamed the forests of Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. However, loss of habitat and poaching led to the complete disappearance of this ancient animal whose fossil records have been discovered all the way back to the early Miocene era.
Though nicknamed 'tiger' because of the 13-21 distinctive stripes that run across its back, rump and the base of its tail, it is actually the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times, whose closest relative is the Tasmanian devil. As for the last confirmed report of this shy nocturnal animal? That was in 1936 when the one that resided in Tasmania's Hobart Zoo died! Hopefully, the naturalists will be able to find some specimens of this ancient animal and bring it back from the 'dead'.