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Tasmanian Tiger Sightings Prompt Scientists To Search For Extinct Marsupial In Australia

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The thylacine, also called the Tasmanian tiger, is known as the largest carnivorous marsupial of modern times.

The animal, characterized by a striped lower back, however, is believed to have become extinct because of extensive hunting and competition with the dingo.

The Tasmanian Tiger

The species is believed to have been wiped out on mainland Australia about 2,000 years ago and the last of the species is thought to have died in Hobart Zoo in Tasmania in 1936.

Some researchers, however, considered the possibility that Hobart Zoos' Benjamin could not be the last Tasmanian tiger and that tiny thylacine populations may have held on and survived into the 1940s. Hope that the Tasmanian tiger has somehow survived is now up due to "plausible" sightings of the animal in northern Queensland.

Plausible Sightings And Descriptions Prompt Scientists To Conduct A Survey

The sightings of large, doglike animals that do not look like foxes or dingoes have persisted over decades amid skepticisms. Recents sightings, however, have prompted scientists to conduct a search for the Tasmanian tiger despite that the species is thought to have permanently disappeared more than 80 years ago.

Scientists from James Cook University have been spurred to launch a search for the animal after recent eyewitness accounts of possible Tasmanian tigers in far north Queensland surfaced.

James Cook University Professor Bill Laurance, who had spoken to two people who claimed to have seen potential thylacines in Cape York peninsula, said that they were able to give plausible and detailed descriptions of the creature.

"He was quite detailed in terms of his descriptions of eye shines and aspects of the body pattern and movements," said Laurance.

Laurance said that the sightings of the mysterious creature occurred at night. In one instance, four animals were observed at just about 20 feet away using a spotlight. The description of the creatures' eyes, shape, size, and behavior were likewise not consistent with those of other large species in north Queensland such as feral pigs, wild dogs, and dingoes.

"They were dog-shaped — I had a shepherd with me so I certainly know what dogs are about — and in the spotlight I could see they were tan in colour and they had stripes on their sides," eyewitness Brian Hobbs said.

Laurance said that the sightings were at two different locations on the peninsula, but details were kept confidential. He also said that those who claimed to have seen the supposedly extinct animal were nervous to relate their tales over concerns that they would be branded as kooks.

Camera Traps To Be Installed

Sandra Abell, from the James Cook University, who leads the field survey, related that she had been contacted with more potential sightings after their intentions were made public. Researchers will set up over 50 camera traps for a survey due to start as early as next month.

The researcher said that even if the Tasmanian tiger would not be found, the survey would offer a better understanding of the status of rare mammal species on the peninsula.

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