Is there a Tasmanian tiger teasing thylacine seekers with faraway-yet-tantalizing appearances on game cameras that are oh-so-close yet I’m-squinting-and-I’m-still-not-sure in quality? Or are thylacine hunters seeing tigers in every odd motion on bush cameras?
They call themselves the Booth Richardson Tiger Team (BRT Team) and they’re looking for thylacines where God intended them to be – in Tasmania. The ‘Booth’ refers to the father-son team of Joe and Greg Booth, who set up motion-detecting trail cameras in a secret bushland location after Greg claimed he saw a Tasmanian tiger in the area in 2015.
“It had a really big head, a really long snout, it had a scar up here [on its head]. Its ears were pointed and it had white around the eyes with dark brown eyes set back in the skull of the animal. It was sitting down and looked at me, I was about eight feet away from it.”
That encounter was said to be on an old convict trail (road originally built by convicts). While Joe didn’t see this one, he claims to have had his own sighting in the Derwent Valley of south-east Tasmania in the 1950s and says he knows they’re around because he frequently hears their high-pitched barks.
The cameras were set up in secret bushland locations about 50 km (31 miles) from the former forestry outpost Maydena and moved frequently. They paid off in late 2016 when one of the cameras picked up what looks like a Tasmanian tiger on November 4th. Both the still images and the video show something that required an expert’s opinion. That would be Adrian ‘Richo’ Richardson, who says he has 26 years experience in thylacine research and, based on that:
“I don’t think it’s a thylacine … I know it’s a thylacine.”
Richardson was confident enough that he added his ‘R’ to BRT Team and joined forces with the Booths to find a living Tasmanian tiger in Tasmania and present their findings not only to the world but to government and conservation agencies that will help protect it … should a thylacine (or more) be found.
That, and to get other expert opinions, is why they waited until September 6, 2017, to hold a press conference announcing their find and releasing the video and photos. Coincidentally, that date is one day before the 81st anniversary of the death the last captive tiger in Hobart’s Beauman’s Zoo. Other than giving a copy of the video to the Tasmanian government, all of the footage has been kept for security at the Hobart law firm where the press conference was held.
The video was shown to Nick Mooney, a retired wildlife expert from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, who has investigated many thylacine sightings both on the job and while retired. Based on his experience, he gave this report:
“Assuming the footage is authentic, the animal is either a very large spotted-tailed quoll or a small thylacine.”
The image showing the tail appears to be the one that allows Mooney to give this a one-in-three chance of being a Tasmanian tiger. Two other experts he consulted with also saw the resemblance and agreed with his odds.
One-in-three … a 33 percent chance a Tasmanian tiger has been seen alive. If you squint real hard at those odds, they’re pretty good. Can you see it?