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New Historical Photo of Tasmanian Tiger and Her Pups Found

Could the current hunt for the assumed-extinct-but-maybe-not Tasmanian tiger be helped by a never-before-seen-in-public photograph of a mother and pups taken at a zoo just a few years before the thylacine was declared extinct? How about an envelope of thylacine hairs? While researchers recently used a mathematical model to determine that the odds of finding a Tasmanian tiger alive today are 1 in 1.6 trillion, that’s not stopping others hunting for the creature in Far North Queensland and it’s not stopping photographer Chris Rehberg from using the hairs and the photograph to broaden the scant historical record of the Tasmanian tiger … and possibly help in the search as well.

The photograph appeared recently where all new things appear these days … on Facebook. According to ABC Radio Hobart, Rose Lewis posted a photo she found taken in 1923 by her grandparents on the west coast of Tasmania.

I’ve had it all my life. It’s my grandmother’s photo. The other night I was on a site for vintage things and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to pop this up there’.

The photograph shows a mother Tasmanian tiger and three pups in a cage. Rose said the thylacine family had been caught by her grandfather, Walter Mullins, a bushman who had been hunting kangaroos. According to family history, which Rose said came primarily from her grandmother because her father was too embarrassed, Mullins hauled the cage of thylacines around to county fairs before selling them to the Hobart zoo.

Tasmanian wolf Thylacinus cynocephalus engraved, hand drawn vector illustration in woodcut scratchboard style, vintage drawing australian extinct species

Thylacine fans notified Chris Rehberg, who maintains the website Where Light Meets Dark where he posts Tasmanian tiger news – like the discovery of the new photograph – and runs a fundraising campaign to use microscopes to create high-quality color photomicrographs of a small envelope of thylacine hair samples he obtained. Apparently the only photographs available are black-and-white and these would give those searching for the animal something to compare possible hair findings to.

Will the ‘new’ old photograph of a Tasmanian tiger family help prove or disprove its extinction? Any photographs of the creature will help those spotting something that looks like one determine if it is or isn’t. The photomicrographs of the hair samples and the samples themselves are a different story. They can help with both visual and DNA comparisons.

Is all of this work for nothing or are the “hundreds” of sightings Chris Rehberg has recorded proof that the 1 in 1.6 trillion odds-makers will someday be proven wrong.


Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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