Remains of last Tasmanian tiger thought lost are found in drawer after 85 years

Skin and skull of the last known thylacine have been identified, solving a decades-long mystery.

5 ten
2022
– 11:12 am

(updated at 12:19 pm)




One of the last known Tasmanian tigers pictured at Hobart Zoo

One of the last known Tasmanian tigers pictured at Hobart Zoo

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

The remains of the last known Tasmanian tiger – believed to have been lost for 85 years – have been found hidden in an Australian museum’s closet.

The animal died in captivity at the Hobart Zoo (capital of the State of Tasmania, an island located in southern Australia) in 1936 and its body was donated to a local museum.

The thylacine (also called the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf) earned its nickname from the stripes on its back. But it was actually a marsupial, the kind of Australian mammal that raises its young in a pouch.

What happened to its skeleton and its skin afterwards gave rise to a mystery that lasted for decades.

The Museum and Art Gallery of Tasmania have lost track of the animal’s remains – it was believed they had been thrown away.

New research finds that they were actually in the museum the whole time — preserved but not properly catalogued.

“For years, many museum curators and researchers searched for these remains without success, as no thylacine material dating back to 1936 had been recorded,” said Robert Paddle, who published a book in 2000 about the species’ extinction.

“It was supposed to have been thrown out.”

But Paddle and one of the museum’s curators found an unpublished taxidermist’s report, prompting a review of the museum’s collections.

They found the missing female specimen in a closet in the museum’s education department.



The specimen was kept in a Hobart museum the whole time, says an author

The specimen was kept in a Hobart museum the whole time, says an author

Photo: Museum and Art Gallery of Tasmania / BBC News Brasil

Those remains were even shown in Australia in a traveling exhibition, but the team didn’t know it was the last thylacine, curator Kathryn Medlock told ABC.

“It was chosen because it was the best leather in the collection,” he explained.

“At that time, they thought there were still animals in the bush.”



Skin of the last known Tasmanian tiger

Skin of the last known Tasmanian tiger

Photo: ABC News / BBC News Brazil

The skin and skeleton are now on display at the museum in Hobart.

Originally, Tasmanian tigers were thought to have roamed across Australia, but their populations have declined due to impacts from humans and dingoes.

Eventually, the thylacine was only found on the island of Tasmania, where it was hunted to extinction in the 1930s.

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