A leading Tasmanian tiger expert says new images purportedly of the extinct thylacine are, in fact, of a totally different species.
Neil Waters, president of the Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia, released a video on Monday claiming he had new images of a baby Tasmanian tiger, taken from a camera trap in north-east Tasmania.
Mr Waters said the images had been authenticated by a veterinarian, and he had submitted them to Nick Mooney, honorary curator of vertebrate zoology at the Tasmanian Museum.
But on Tuesday afternoon, the museum released a statement saying the images did not show a Tasmanian tiger at all.
“Nick Mooney has concluded, that based on the physical characteristics shown in the photos provided by Mr Waters, the animals are very unlikely to be thylacines, and are most likely Tasmanian pademelons,” a museum spokesman said.
“TMAG regularly receives requests for verification from members of the public who hope that the thylacine is still with us. However, sadly, there have been no confirmed sightings documented of the thylacine since 1936.”
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A pademelon is a small wallaby.
The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger, went extinct in 1936, when the last surviving member of the species died in Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart.
The creatures looked similar to dogs – they are often called Tasmanian wolves – but had short ears, stripes, and on the females a pouch to carry offspring.
There were about 5000 in Tasmania at time of European settlement, but introduced animals, habitat destruction and hunting quickly pushed them to extinction.
In the video released by the Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia, titled WE FOUND A THYLACINE, Mr Waters strolls through “some little town that grows a bit of hops, for all the beer”. As he narrates the video – which appears to have been shot on a hand-held camera – Mr Waters drinks from a can of Boags Draught.
“In the last 10 days, I’ve probably been acting a bit weird,” he says. “That’s because, when I was checking the SD cards, I found some photos, that were pretty damn good.”
“I know what they are. And so do a few independent expert witnesses, expert canine judges, feline judges, and a vet. I have left the images with Nick Mooney from the museum. He’s having a look at them.
“I can tell you there is three animals. We ... believe the first image is the mum. We know the second image is the baby, because it’s so tiny. And the third image is the dad.
The mother and father are “ambiguous”, a broadly-smiling Mr Waters says. “However, the baby is not ambiguous. The baby has stripes, a stiff tail, the hock, the coarse hair, the right colour.
“Not only do we have a family walking through the bush, but we have proof of breeding.
“Congratulations everyone. We have done it. Cheers.”
Mr Waters has previously claimed his group spotted a thylacine in Adelaide in 2016. That sighting was dismissed by the South Australian Museum at the time.