Thylacine - Thylacinus cynocephalus

February 01, 2012

Recently, my husband brought this movie trailer to my attention: The Hunter. Seen it? I've been obsessed with Thylacines, otherwise known at the Tasmanian Tiger or Wolf, and have been wanting to do a painting of one for months. When I saw the trailer, I figured I better get on it before the Thylacine is forever associated with a gun toting Willem Defoe. Even though I expect the movie to be based on a lot of myth while possibly exploiting and maligning an amazing (extinct) animal, some of it's more sensationalist plot points might actually be based in truth.

The Thylacine, a large, carnivorous marsupial is thought to have gone extinct on the Australian mainland about 2000 years ago. In Tasmania, however, it held out until the early 20th century. The Tasmanian Tiger went extinct as the result of an extremely focused hunting effort, in which a price was put on its head. Other factors could have contributed to its extinction such as introduced predators to Tasmania. The last Thylacine was shot in wild in by Wilf Batty (way to go Wilf) in 1930, and the last to die in captivity was in 1933 (possibly 1936). Since then there have a been number of unconfirmed sightings and evidence that the Thylacine may still exist (the movie explores this possibility), but methinks it is a lot of wishful thinking. 

Another aspect of the Thylacine's story that the movie seems to possibly touch on is the effort in recent years to extract DNA from Thylacine specimens with the intention to clone. I read an article on this project years ago, and since then I believe these efforts have been abandoned as a good DNA sample was not obtainable. I remember reading the article and feeling the excitement over the possibility of resurrecting an extinct species, especially one as magnificent as the Thylacine. But then, upon further reflection, I felt it was a hopeless endeavor. Not so much that it was destined to fail, but more what if we were able to bring the Thylacine back from the dead? Would it be to assuage our guilt as species in being directly responsible for its extermination? And what of its current habitat? Would it still be able to sustain a viable Thylacine population? Sometimes it may be better to accept that once something goes extinct, it is gone and gone forever. little soapbox for the day. I'm sure I'll go see the movie, though. If you haven't seen footage of a Thylacine, check out this video here.

Also, the painting above is available here.


  1. Great post Diana.

    "Would it still be able to sustain a viable Thylacine population? Sometimes it may be better to accept that once something goes extinct, it is gone and gone forever."

    Interesting thought. What if we could bring Thylacine back but were unable to sustain a viable population? I wonder how we'd feel about letting a species go extinct twice.

  2. I enjoyed this post, Rad illustration I wasn't aware of this beast. I'm from South Africa and we're busy fighting a losing battle against Rhino poaching over here. I like the thought of being able to clone some more Rhinos, we still have the habitat to support them. Who knows maybe there are a couple of Taz tigers running around.

  3. Thank you both for chiming in.

    @IM, that was kind of what I was getting at, meaning I don't think we have any business bringing back a Thylacine unless we can insure there is habitat and protection.

    But really we should be spending that kind of money on animals that are still here and desperately need protection, such as rhino populations.

    @Straat-toe, I completely agree with your suggestion of using cloning to help a species like the rhino. I know there has been a terrible spike in recent years in rhino and elephant poaching.

  4. It's not right for humans like Wilf Batty (what a name!) to exterminate beautiful wildlife but I am squeamish about humans manipulating them back into existence too. I feel like something would go out of kilter somewhere else. Human intervention messes things up.

    P.S. I enjoyed your eel tweet today. :)

  5. @Kathleen Maunder - I agree. We should just stay out of it at this stage.

    And yes, glad you are on board for the Moray Eel = Funny club!

  6. I can't get the video to play for some reason, but judging by the poster, Willem Defoe is not a preservationist of Thylacines?

    Happy to hear this inspired you to capture (no pun intended!) this extinct animal on paper at least.


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