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Rare Sighting of Tasmanian Tiger Sparks Renewed Interest

The impressive gape on this Tassie tiger held in Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart, in the late 1920s shows one reason why the species was such an effective carnivore. Image credit: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Collection

In the autumn of 1982, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) ranger Hans Naarding made a rare and credible sighting of a thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger. This event occurred near Togari in the state’s far north-west, during a rainy night that turned into an unforgettable encounter.

Hans Naarding’s Encounter with a Thylacine

Tasmanian Tiger
A Tasmanian hunter poses with a dead thylacine in 1925. Image credit: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Collection

Hans was birdwatching and decided to sleep in his LandCruiser. At about 2 a.m., something woke him, and he pointed his torch into the night. He saw a thylacine, just 6-7 meters from his vehicle. The encounter lasted for about three minutes, enough time for Hans to mentally document the sighting.

Describing the Thylacine

Tasmanian Tiger
Two men hold a dead thylacine by its hind legs in Tasmania, 1924. Image credit: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Collection

Hans described the thylacine as a full-grown male, soaking wet, and very healthy. He estimated its weight and counted the stripes on its back. Despite the heavy rain, he managed to observe it clearly before it disappeared into the forest.

Credibility of the Sighting

This thylacine in a cage in the coastal Tassie town of Wynyard was en route to Hobert, c.1918. Image credit: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Collection

Given Hans’s extensive wildlife experience, his sighting is regarded as highly credible. The then director of the PWS, Peter Murrell, described it as “irrefutable and conclusive.” This led to a year-long search by PWS rangers, which unfortunately yielded no further evidence.

The Extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger

Tasmanian Tiger
The impressive gape on this Tassie tiger held in Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart, in the late 1920s shows one reason why the species was such an effective carnivore. Image credit: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Collection

The last known thylacine died in captivity at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart on September 7, 1936. This date is now observed as Threatened Species Day in Australia. The thylacine was officially declared extinct by the IUCN in 1986.

Reports and Credible Sightings

Tasmanian Tiger
Dr Kathryn Medlock, senior curator of zoology at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, holds a preserved three-month-old thylacine pup. Image credit: Matthew Newton

Although the thylacine was declared extinct, credible sightings continued well into the 1960s. Many reports came from fur trappers, bushmen, and scientists. These sightings, while not corroborated by physical evidence, suggest the species might have survived in small numbers for decades.

New Study on Thylacine Extinction

By Baker; E.J. Keller. – Report of the Smithsonian Institution. 1904from the Smithsonian Institution archives. Published exampleother information: [1]Additional information: Female thylacine (front) with juvenile male offspring (rear). (30 September 2020). “A Catalogue of the Thylacine captured on film”. Australian Zoologist 41 (2): 143–178. DOI:10.7882/AZ.2020.032., Public Domain,

A new statistical analysis has mapped the decline and extinction of the thylacine. The study, published in 2023, concluded that the species likely survived in tiny numbers until the 1980s. This study was led by Barry Brook and his team at the University of Tasmania (UTAS).

Methodology of the Study

By Unknown author – direct link, Public Domain,

The study compiled an exhaustive database of recorded sightings since 1910. It ranked the plausibility of these sightings based on the observer’s expertise and the credibility of their reports. The study’s rigorous methodology has been widely praised by conservation scientists.

Implications of the Study

By Unknown author –, Public Domain,

The study gives credence to Hans’s 1982 sighting and suggests that the thylacine might have persisted into the late 20th century. This finding is significant, as it offers a new understanding of the species’ extinction timeline.

The Future of Thylacine Research

By Victor Prout? – confirmation of image:, Public Domain,

Researchers are now expanding the database to include all thylacine records since European colonization. This will help map out habitat suitability across Tasmania, which could be useful if the species is ever successfully ‘de-extincted’ through future genetic technologies.

What Did the Tasmanian Tiger Look Like?

By Frank Baker –, Public Domain,

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, had a dog-like appearance with a slim build, stiff tail, and large head. It had distinctive dark stripes across its back and hindquarters, which gave it a tiger-like appearance. The thylacine’s fur was short and coarse, and it had a pouch like other marsupials.

How Did the Tasmanian Tiger Behave?

By Henry Constantine Richter/ After John Gould – Online scan State Library of Victoria, Public Domain,

The Tasmanian tiger was a nocturnal and solitary hunter. It primarily fed on small mammals and birds. Thylacines were known to be shy and elusive, often avoiding human contact. They used their keen senses of sight and hearing to hunt, and they could open their jaws surprisingly wide to capture prey.

What Efforts Have Been Made to Find the Tasmanian Tiger?

By Harry Burrell – G.P. Whitley Papers Australian Museum Archives, AMS139/4/20/1, Public Domain,

Various efforts have been made to find the Tasmanian tiger since its supposed extinction. These include organized searches, camera traps, and public appeals for information. Despite numerous reported sightings, no definitive evidence has been found to confirm the species’ continued existence.

Why Are Sightings of the Tasmanian Tiger Considered Credible?

Sightings of the Tasmanian tiger are considered credible due to the expertise of the observers. Many reports have come from experienced wildlife professionals, fur trappers, and scientists. These observers provide detailed descriptions that match known characteristics of the thylacine, lending credibility to their accounts.

What Did the Recent Study on the Tasmanian Tiger Reveal?

By Harriet Morgan – Krefft The Mammals of Australia, reproduced and annotated at NLA, Public Domain,

The recent study by Barry Brook and his team at the University of Tasmania used statistical analysis to map the decline and extinction of the Tasmanian tiger. The study found that the species likely survived in small numbers until the 1980s. Further, this research has provided new insights into the timeline of the thylacine’s extinction and suggests that some sightings may have been accurate.

Could the Tasmanian Tiger Be Brought Back Through Genetic Technologies?

By Benjamin A. Sheppard. –, Public Domain,

There is ongoing discussion about the potential to bring back the Tasmanian tiger through de-extinction efforts. Advances in genetic technologies might allow scientists to recreate the thylacine using preserved DNA. While this is still a theoretical possibility, it raises hope for the possible restoration of the species in the future.

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