Thylacine researcher Col Bailey is convinced the Tasmanian Tiger still exists out in the remote Tasmanian wilds — because, in 1995, he says he saw one with his own eyes.
“Due to the similarly poor genetic diversity of the animals, this new data suggests that the genetic health of the Tasmanian Tiger and Devil may have been affected by the geographic isolation of Tasmania from mainland Australia approximately 10 to 13 thousand years ago.”
~ Dr Brandon Menzies, Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne.
The thylacine, more commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, has come in for much scientific attention in recent times — and here we have another line of thought dealing with the genetic diversity of this animal, following its isolation from mainland populations some ten thousand years ago.
That isolation undoubtedly saved the species from extinction, for unlike its mainland cousins – who became extinct several thousand years ago – the thylacine remained extant in Tasmania, protected by the ocean from the far superior hunting habits of the introduced native dog or dingo.
Its main antagonist was to become the landed gentry, who lately waged an incessant war on the three to four thousand thylacine remaining in Tasmania at the time of white settlement. After suffering the wholesale slaughter of the Government bounty scheme, and the ravages of rampant canine-type diseases, by the time of the First World War, this unique animal was firmly on the back foot and any remaining thylacine had, by necessity, retreated to the relative security of the back country from where it recuperated.
That is the basic history of the Tasmanian tiger, and that it has survived to the present day is a miracle in itself — a fact that is, nonetheless, open to much conjecture from the pro-scientific lobby.
Not so long ago we had scientist Marie Attard’s wacky theory that the thylacine had weak jaws and could only kill and devour very small animals. This quite ridiculous premise flew in the face of a considerable number of well documented eyewitness accounts of thylacines actually killing sheep back in pre-bounty days — as well as it discrediting the long accepted fact that the principal prey of the hunting thylacine is wallaby.
One wonders what they will come up with next.
There are of course, two obvious schools of thought as to whether the thylacine is extinct or extant — with both strongly supported by their respective devotees.
Having thoroughly researched this animal both theoretically and in the field over the past 45 years, I am totally convinced that the thylacine survived long after 1936 — the year when it is generally accepted that the last known captive specimen, a male trapped in 1933 by Elias Churchill in the Florentine Valley, passed away in the Hobart Domain Zoo.
Scientific consensus is adamant that this was the last of the species. That theory is, of course, mere conjecture — for despite being a generally accepted fact by the scientific fraternity, it flies squarely in the face of what I believe, or am advocating.
I am telling you now and for the first time, that I categorically witnessed a living, breathing thylacine in 1995 in south-western Tasmania. And this was nine years after the animal was officially declared extinct! It is a fact I have deliberately concealed until now, and for several good reasons. Firstly, to protect the animal at the time from exploitation and harassment from others.
I could have behaved like so many others fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of this rare animal and run screaming to the media — and in doing so unleashed a torrent of potentially damaging attention upon the animal. I decided to let the creature roam free, for I was, at the time, thoroughly convinced that there were others of its kind wandering that same large area of isolated wilderness country.
Some would query why I did not take my information to the authorities. Although I was in the first instance tempted to do this, I decided against it because I had received no guarantee that such information would be handled competently — mainly because of an obvious lack of policy and a constructive protection programme regarding the future fortification of the species.
And believe me when I tell you, that it has been extremely hard to continually repress this information from both media and documentary crews that have beaten a path to my door over the past seventeen years. In effect, I have been guilty of telling a ‘white lie’ when asked if I have seen a Tasmanian tiger. But it is, nevertheless, something that I chose to do in order to protect the animal.
It was not so much a coincidence that I crossed paths with this extremely rare animal just after daybreak on that cool autumn morning in 1995, as it was a planned objective. It was my sole reason for being where I was — and yet I was still caught off guard by the presence of the animal. I was acting on information obtained from a most unlikely source several years previously. Having spent the interim time scouring that specific region, I was to put in many hard miles before being rewarded for my persistence — and it was with pure adulation that I witnessed this truly remarkable sight, that so many believed no longer possible. It was truly a revelation, albeit not unexpected, for my long-held belief that the thylacine still existed in Tasmania had now been rewarded.
Is it any wonder, then, that I am so resolute in my conviction that the thylacine has survived against quite incredible odds, and no one can convince me otherwise.
And well may you ask, why have I withheld this information for so long? I had hoped to be able to supply indisputable evidence to complement my new book dealing with my long search for the Tasmanian tiger, but to this point in time I have none. There is only my word to back me up — if that is of any worthwhile consideration.
All will be revealed in my second book, dealing with my 45 year search for the thylacine and which is now in the hands of my literary agent in Sydney, awaiting a publisher. So far no luck, mainly because the publishers’ feel that such a book would only sell in Tasmania! If this is so, why did the 7,500 copies of my first book ‘Tiger Tales’ sell mainly to mainland and overseas readers? And now, people are paying upwards of $200 to get hold of a copy. If anyone out there is interested in publishing my manuscript, please do make contact.
I have always believed that the thylacine is capable of in-breeding, for if this were not so, it could not have survived for as long as it has with such a narrow gene pool.
I am not going to hazard a guess as to how many more of its kind were wandering that region at the time, but it is almost an odds on certainty that there were others back in there, for I had it on good authority that a colony had been moving through that area for quite some time — many generations in fact.
Scientific opinion is such concerning this animal, that it is becoming overwhelmingly obtrusive in its continuation of so-called ‘advanced theories’ regarding the extinction of the species. It is almost as though science is on a guilt complex and seeking exoneration on behalf of the human population for the supposed annihilation of the thylacine.
My good friend Mike Archer appears to have started the ball rolling some years back when he embarked on a rather optimistic quest to clone thylacine DNA from a test tube juvenile, and he was genuine in his belief that he could succeed. To this point in time his overly ambitious project is in limbo, awaiting future funding to allow it to continue, and I wish him luck for the future.
I am only too aware that I am considered by many to be of no account; a mere dreamer who is off with the fairies. But I want to assure you that there are others like me out there, who believe explicitly that the thylacine has survived, and I have no doubts that one of these days, as unbelievable as it appears to many, we will be proved correct.
And there are many too, who hope beyond hope that the thylacine has survived still — not merely in the psyche of their being, but with some certainty that in those wild, untamed, places that beautiful island still harbours, the Tasmanian tiger lives on.
(Col Bailey is an author and long-time thylacine researcher, who is seeking a publisher for his latest manuscript on the tiger search. He may be contacted through the firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was originally published in the Tasmanian Times and has been republished with permission.)