Tasmanian tiger

Extinct in 1930
  • tasumaniatiger
  • tasumaniatiger

Most hunted by zoologists, the Tasmanian tiger

The distribution of animals can tell us something about the earth’s history. Old fish types like the Arowanas, which are still found today in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia, or the lungfishes in South America, Africa and Australia are the evidence that all the continents of today were originally connected to one large continent, Gondwana. Later the different continents drifted away from each other and Australia separated already from Gondwana, before the modern mammals existed. No modern mammal ever arrived therefore on the Australian continent and the endemic marsupials could conquer all habitats without any pressure by modern mammal species and developed into a great species diversity.

Since 1805 the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cyanocephalus) is known to the western world. He is the largest marsupial predator on the Australian continent and he is the only species of the zoological family Thylacinidae. The last Tasmanian tiger in a zoo died in 1936 in the Australian Hobart Zoo. This animal was the last living specimen and since that time the Tasmanian tiger is believed to be extinct. During the years 1850-1936 several zoos kept Tasmanian tigers, although the animal was not considered as an attractive animal to the public. Vicariously the following zoos can be mentioned: Adelaide (1886-1903) 8 animals, Antwerp (1912-1914) 1 animal, Berlin (1864-1908) 4 animals, Hobart (1910-1936) 16 animals, London (1850-1931) 20 animals and Washington (1902-1909) 5 animals.
The Tasmanian tiger reaches a body length of 85-130cm with a tail of 28-65cm. He has rather short legs, and therefore a shoulder height of only about 60cm. Its body weight varies between 15 and 30kg. The fur hairs are short and rough, the color grey or yellow-brown. Characteristic and remarkable are the 13-19 dark-brown cross-stripes on the posterior part of the body and on the beginning of the tail. The pouch opened caudal and contains 4 teats. Normally 2-4 babies are born, which leave the pouch at an age of 3 months. After leaving the pouch, they stayed nevertheless for another 8-9 months with the mother.

The Photo of Tasmanian tiger that had been kept in Berlin Zoo

The Photo of Tasmanian tiger that had been kept in Berlin Zoo.
(Click to view larger image).

The Tasmanian tiger is an excellent example for a parallel (convergent) evolution, because it resembles in many aspects to the wolf, which is also a predator and occupies a similar ecological niche as the Tasmanian tiger. Also their skulls look on the first glimpse very similar, because both species have long fangs and the molars are sharp. But there is one remarkable difference, the wolf and of course also the domestic dog has 40 teeth, whereas the Tasmanian tiger has 46. This number of teeth is the best distinction to the Dingo, which is a wild, but originally domestic dog.
The Tasmanian tiger is a nocturnal animal and hunts mainly on smaller animals like wallabies, bandicoots and other small marsupials. They hunt alone or in small groups. Although sheep were probably too large as a prey for the Tasmanian tiger, he was intensively hunted by the Europeans, who saw in this animal a killer of their sheep, which was in reality the Dingo.
When the Europeans arrived in Australia, most probably the Tasmanian tiger lived exclusively in Tasmania and was already extinct on the Australian mainland and in New Guinea. But when the first men came to settle down in Australia, the Tasmanian tiger was still living on the continent, because rock drawings of the Aborigines document the existence of the Tasmanian tiger at that time. About 5.000 years ago, the species became extinct on the continent, exactly at the time, when the first dingo arrived in Australia. Probably the Tasmanian tiger died out because of this new food concurrence. Even until today the Dingo was never brought over to Tasmania. Therefore the Tasmanian tiger could survive there. - But also other factors like overhunting, climate change, an imported disease and a genetic inbreeding factor could be the reason for the collapse and the end of the Tiger’s existence.
Open woodland and grass steppes were the original habitat of this large marsupial predator. But during the last years of its existence, the Tasmanian tiger was forced back by man into the dense forests, because the grass steppes were used by the imported sheep.

Tasmanian tiger drawn in the 19th century Tasmanian tiger on the Australia stamps

Tasmanian tiger drawn in the 19th century
(Click to view larger image).

Tasmanian tiger on theAustralia stamps
(Click to view larger image).

Although it seems to be obvious that the Tasmanian tiger is extinct today, we have every year reports about the existence of this animal even today. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the extinction may not have taken place until today. Nevertheless in 2005 an Australian Magazine promised a high sum for the definitive evidence of a live Tasmanian tiger. But since 1936 no photo was shot of a live Tasmanian tiger, although all these observations are proofed critically and several of these reports are given by trustable persons. On the other hand, all of the known individual animals were taken or killed in the settled parts of Tasmania. Therefore it can be assumed that other specimens existed in the more remote areas of Tasmania and survived there.
During the last years, more research took place on the DNA of feces samples, which were collected in the 1960ies and which could belong to the Tasmanian tiger. And in 2013 British scientists tried to find the Tasmanian tiger in very remote parts of Tasmania. They collected rather fresh droppings, which could belong to the Tasmanian tiger, and which had to be proofed later on its DNA results.

Skull of Tasmanian tiger

Stuffed Tasmanian tiger
(Click to view larger image).

The best chance to see this large marsupial predator is at the moment to visit a Natural History Museum, which has mounted Tasmanian Tigers in its exhibition like the museums in Berlin, Bremen, Brussel, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Tokyo, Vienna and Zurich as well as in some museums in North America and of course in Australia.
Even if the Tasmanian tiger will be rediscovered in the near future in its former habitat, we are proud to keep the Tasmanian tiger like other extinct species already today in our Lost Zoo. The Tasmanian tiger can be found in the Lost Zoo’s new extension for Australian animals. The enclosure will have a savannah type character and offers the animals enough space to run around and to hide too.

Tasmanian tiger enclosure in LOST ZOO

Tasmanian tiger enclosure in LOST ZOO (Click to view larger image).

Executive Curator

Tasmanian tiger

The Tasmanian tiger is the largest marsupial predator and an excellent example of convergent evolution. It resembles the wolf in many aspects, which is also a predator and occupies a similar ecological niche as the Tasmanian tiger.

Shoulder height: 60 cm, short-legged

Body length: 85-130 cm, with a tail of 28-65 cm

Body weight: 15-30 kg

Habitat: Living in the open woodland and grass steppes

Extinction: 1930. Food concurrence by the imported dingo, overhunting, climate change may have caused the Tasmanian tiger’s extinction.