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Nov 15, 2013

The truth will be revealed: I have seen the Tassie tiger

Everyone knows the Tasmanian tiger is extinct, right? Well, thylacine researcher Col Bailey says everyone is wrong.


Tasmanian tiger

The thylacine is not extinct.

I say this without reservation. I don’t suppose the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger) remains extant, or imagine, or even hope it is; I know categorically that the thylacine exists, because I have seen it in the flesh. I have also heard it and smelt it over the past 20 years and handled some mighty convincing eyewitness reports along the way. I have written extensively about the animal for various newspapers over the years, and my first book, Tiger Tales, was a collection of stories concerning old bushmen I interviewed, their sightings and recollections of the tiger as well as other sightings spanning the past 100 years.

But I am not relying on the testimony of others to convince me this animal is extant, I am backing my own judgement in declaring what I have actually observed.

It appears that I do this at risk of my own reputation, for I am only too aware that once I declare these truths, the sceptic brigade — bless their atheistic little hearts — immediately pounce like ravening wolves, gnashing their teeth, frothing at the mouth and hammering their extinction drums in my face in doing their level best to make me out to be a raving imbecile, a serial hoodwinker, or at worst a sadly disillusioned senile old tiger hunter who should be committed to an asylum. But honestly, such flattery, such adulation, such hero worship, such reverence is like the proverbial water off the duck’s back.

I know what I know, and that apparently is a darned lot more than my sceptics.

I have been searching for the thylacine for the past 46 years. The highlight was when I actually came face-to-face with a Tasmanian tiger in March 1995 in the Weld Valley wilderness of south-west Tasmania.

I well remember back in the 1940s-’50s era being drawn time and time again to the museum’s thylacine display, a particularly imposing and educational diorama of a group of thylacines in a splendid bush setting; I have never forgotten it. Although I didn’t place any great emphasis on the exhibit at the time, it remained firmly fixed in my memory, and it may have somehow provided the nucleus for my later adulation of this unique animal. Visiting the museum several years ago I was invited down to the storage area and inquired as to what had become of the thylacine diorama exhibit, but apparently no one knew where it was, if indeed it still existed.

Back in those days there remained the hope the thylacine had survived, in Tasmanian at least, but as time went by and without conclusive evidence, this hope naturally evaporated as the likelihood of its survival became more and more improbable. By the time I entered the debate in 1967, the writing was well and truly on the wall and that window of hope was fast closing.

I can quite understand the scientific attitude, for nothing short of a freshly dead or living specimen will suffice, and to this point in time, no such evidence has been forthcoming. But that is not to say it won’t happen in the future, for we simply cannot place a definite date on extinction.

The scientific fraternity is bound by a strict protocol that forbids what are considered irrational statements, by and large to protect their backs and reputations. For this reason they refuse to budge on the principle of the thylacine’s extinction regardless of their private opinions and philosophies. Certain academics present themselves as experts on the thylacine when in actual fact there are no true experts when it comes to this animal, only pretenders, for there is so much that we don’t know about it. As I have said before, the true experts were the trappers and bushmen who lived alongside the thylacine in the bush and knew and understood its every mood and peculiarity.

I personally know of only two academics who have left the door slightly ajar concerning the thylacine’s survival to the present day, and they are the late Dr Eric Guiler, and wildlife authority Nick Mooney. These two men as leading lights in the thylacine debate command an astute status in their knowledge of this animal, and thus their opinions are much valued.

By all means, watch the 43 seconds of moving footage of the last thylacine in captivity, watch it over and over, closely, and let it sink in, but don’t be misled into believing that animal was the last of its species — it most definitely was not. That assumption is a myth that has taken root and sadly led many generations astray. In time the truth will be revealed.

* Col Bailey is a thylacine researcher who has spent 46 years looking for the animal. He lives in Tasmania and is the author of two books on the Tassie tiger. This is an edited version of a story that appeared on Tasmanian Times.


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17 thoughts on “The truth will be revealed: I have seen the Tassie tiger

  1. JackAubrey

    mmmm. Just a skerrick of evidence would be nice. It doesn’t have to be a whole (living or dead) animal – just some fresh DNA. I’m sure Mike Archer would be ecstatic to verify it.

  2. GJ Rogers

    I’d love to believe they were still around, but the absence of evidence is pretty strong evidence of absence in this case.

    If nothing else, it really stretches credibility that they’ve escaped the incredible carnage on the logging roads. Old-growth logging trucks only travel by night to escape being filmed, and night is when all the critters are out and about. Logging companies have employees drive the route at dawn to haul the roadkill out of sight into the bush at the roadside. It beggars belief that a living thylacine population has somehow continually avoided dying on roads that claim every other critter in Tassie with monotonous regularity.

  3. paddy

    I really wish this was true. But….evidence?

  4. mattsui

    This pera’
    “It appears that I do this at risk of my own reputation, for I am only too aware that once I declare these truths, the sceptic brigade — bless their atheistic little hearts — immediately pounce like ravening wolves, gnashing their teeth, frothing at the mouth and hammering their extinction drums in my face in doing their level best to make me out to be a raving imbecile, a serial hoodwinker, or at worst a sadly disillusioned senile old tiger hunter who should be committed to an asylum. But honestly, such flattery, such adulation, such hero worship, such reverence is like the proverbial water off the duck’s back.”
    and the fact that having spent your whole life looking for the beast, you finally find one…. and you can’t take a photo?
    Makes me think the author a bit suss.

  5. Venise Alstergren

    I may have an atheistic heart, soul and brain, too true. However someone I used to know spent a fair amount of time in South West Tasmania. He swore that the thylacine was not extinct. He was not a person given to conspiracy theories. On the other hand, he was unable to offer proof.

    Bon chance with your crusade.

  6. Mark

    Whenever I read an article which is heavy on attacking strawmen opposition, this open minded agnostic turns hard-core athiest and any faith I might have in the author evapourates. Look, mate, all you need is one shred of hard evidence – some scat, a hair, anything for the CSI guys to do their magic on and you will be an instant hero. Until then it’s just the word of someone we might have met down the pub. Sorry.

  7. David Husband

    It seems Col Bailey feels it is time once again to resurrect the “extant” thylacine myth, but this time without a grainy photo or any other evidence. Too long in the bush?

  8. Kevin Herbert

    I lived in Tassie for 6 years in the 70’s…and I saw one too.

    It was in a car driven by Elvis down the Southern Outlet!!!!

  9. David Alford

    I tend to be a skeptic on many things, but on the matter of the Thylacines’s continued existence, I am more optimistic than the naysayers. I believe there is perhaps a 50-50 chance the Thylacine is still extant.

    I have videotaped interviews of two extremely strong sightings way beyond the official 1936 extinction date. One in the mid 1970s in Western Australia and another in the 1980s in Eastern Tasmania. I have other taped interviews, some later and some earlier, but these two sightings were so strong, I’m pretty much convinced the Thylacine held on until at least the 1980s.

    That’s still a long time ago, and I recognize that; but both sightings were from public roads. My logic is simple, if the Thylacine was really there in the 1980s where it could be seen from a public road, I give the species good odds of holding on several more decades in remote areas.

    Of course, there have been sightings well into recent years, I just am not familiar with these to make a judgement.

  10. John Taylor

    I would dearly love the Thylacine to still be around and I read this article with a sense of optimism but unfortunately it is a series of assertions about skeptics rather than offering up tangible evidence. I wish you well in your quest Col and sincerely hope you will succeed. But ad hominem discourse on your critics does not a Thylacine make.

  11. Warren Joffe

    I know I always fail to get my camera, even my smartphone camera, out when our cat does its most amazing tricks but surely someone is bound to be able to catch one on a digital device if they are not extinct. To be more proactive, why not take a few plump sheep to where you think they are, tag the sheep so you can find them every few days and see if any of them are killed and eaten. The Thylacine would be the only likely predator would it not? And some very odd DNA would be left on the carcass.

  12. David Bower

    Enjoyed the article. I’m not sure that skepticism implies atheism, maybe Col meant to use a different word.
    Anyway, my main concern, even knowing nothing about the species, is that of a sustainable population. Normally this is around the 500 level but could be lower for carnivores. You would expect some physical evidence over that time even if there were as few as 20 surviving today. Tracks, dung, fur, carcass etc.

  13. Newcastlegirl

    While I would love to believe it is still alive..sadly I don’t.. children believe in the Tooth Fairy but that does not mean it exists..some proof please

  14. AR

    Let us hope that Rex Gilroy does not read this otherwise he will tell us that it still roams the BMs, recent conflagrations notwithstanding.

  15. James Paterson

    I still pray this is true but my scepticism exists in the fact that Tasmanians since the extinction have not stopped being brilliant bushmen and explorers and many people escaping civilisation have sat for days and years looking out over deep secluded places. I have read eyewitness accounts of sightings that raise great hopes.
    The other fact that fails me is that the character of the tiger can still be found and enjoyed in the quolls and antichinus. They are my door to enjoying the company and personality of Benjamin.
    These extremely delightful creatures have a concentration on their daily chores that they amble and chase prey even out into the open oblivious to all and take little notice of surroundings with a naive and carefree abandon naivety or oversight to danger in their tenacity to daily chores.
    Some of the eyewitness sightings though have been highly accurate to what I know the tiger and human nature and setting of accounts. I pray.

  16. Jean

    Not sure about the old scientists conspiracy of silence line, which seems to be hinted at a bit in the article above. If you gave any of the buggers a tiny bit of evidence, you would be knocked down in the rush to publish.
    Maybe we need to use the traditional bush method of obtaining specimens- shoot one 🙂

  17. Rohan

    I’ve got a theory.

    After being pushed to the brink of extinction 80 years ago, Thylacines developed a seriously vindictive streak against humans.

    Determining their realistic prospects for revenge were limited to progressive humiliation, they resolved to breed at replacement rate and stay tantalisingly out of reach until the entire human race went completely mad at being unable to provide tangible evidence of their existence.


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