Over the years, claims have been made to the effect that numerous assumed long-extinct animals may not be quite so extinct, after all. On this very matter, I have heard some most definitely over the top claims, such as that saber-toothed tigers (Smilodons) might still be with us. That’s one I find to be highly unlikely, to say the very least! The same goes for the woolly mammoth. Certainly, there’s no way that such creatures could still exist today, but I do consider some of the reports (from several centuries ago) as possible evidence that mammoths lived longer than has largely been assumed. And then there’s the Thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, which is presumed to have become extinct in the 1930s. And what, you may well ask, were thylacines? Well, I’ll tell you. Their correct title is Thylacinus cynocephalis, which translates as pouched dog with a wolf’s head. They were dog-sized, striped marsupials, with jaws that had the ability to open to almost 180 degrees.
Although the overriding the opinion is that the creature is now extinct, it most certainly had a good run: fossilized examples of the animals have been found, demonstrating that it lived as far back as the Miocene period. That’s to say, around 23 to 5 million years ago. While the thylacine is generally accepted to have died out in Australia thousands of years ago, history has shown it clung on in Tasmania – roughly 150 miles from Australia – until quite recently. Not everyone, however, is so sure the creature is completely gone. How do we know? All thanks to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Australian Government’s Freedom of Information Act, that’s how.
Both the TPWS and the Australian government have declassified their files and records on the creature; they are filled with credible sightings of thylacines in Tasmania, and all of which post-date the 1930s; in some cases significantly so. In the TPWS’ own website-based words: “Since 1936, no conclusive evidence of a thylacine has been found. However, the incidence of reported thylacine sightings has continued. Most sightings occur at night, in the north of the State, in or near areas where suitable habitat is still available. Although the species is now considered to be ‘probably extinct,’ these sightings provide some hope that the thylacine may still exist.”
As for the Australian Government, it notes at its official webpage on the thylacine: “Australia is home to some of the world’s most unusual and mysterious wildlife. Our native animals, such as the platypus, the koala and the kangaroo, have been a source of wonder and surprise to people the world over. But perhaps our most mysterious animal is the thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger. There are many reasons why people are fascinated by this animal. Perhaps it is its name and the romantic notion of Australia having its own ‘tiger.’ Perhaps it is its sad history since European settlement, or the fact that there are many people who claim they have seen a Tasmanian Tiger and believe it may not be extinct after all.”
And as Australian government officials also state: “Although commonly called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, the thylacine has more in common with its marsupial cousin the Tasmanian Devil. With a head like a wolf, striped body like a tiger and backward facing pouch like a wombat, the thylacine was as unbelievable as the platypus which had caused disbelief and uproar in Europe when it was first described.
“The thylacine looked like a long dog with stripes, a heavy stiff tail and a big head. A fully grown thylacine could measure 180cm from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, stand 58cm high at the shoulder and weigh about 30 kilograms. It had short, soft fur that was brown except for the thick black stripes which extended from the base of the tail to the shoulders.”
If I had to put my money on it, I would say that if just one large, assumed extinct animal is still with us, it’s the thylacine.