Since the last known member of its species died on September 7, 1936, there are very few people left who have seen one live and in color. The next best way to view what the extinct creature looked like would be on film, but all – including the last one – movies of thylacines are in black-and-white. The NEXT best thing would be a colorized version of one of these films, and that’s exactly what someone did with the last known movie of the last known Tasmanian tiger. Until the rumors of them still existing are proven with a color video (OK, at this point we’ll accept a black-and-white night-vision game or security video too), this gives us a great (and sad) look at this magnificent creature.
“The animal managed to get behind him and bite him on the buttocks. He had fair warning and he got what was coming to him. Most likely the tiger would have left puncture marks. They have quite large canine teeth.”
David Maynard, curator at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmanian, where the original film (see it here) is part of an exhibit on the thylacine, says the animal named Benjamin bit the movie’s maker David Fleay by surprise while his vision was blocked by a cloth cover placed over his head to block out the light. It’s too bad Benjamin didn’t live long enough to see Fleay again a few years later after the renowned biologist refined the science of captive breeding and became the first to breed a platypus, mulgara (relative of the Tasmanian devil), marsupial rodent), greater sooty owl and other rare creatures. Of course, he would have needed a female. Coincidentally, the sex of Benjamin was never determined while he was alive, but a careful study of Fleay’s film showed a scrotum and testes.
“DeOldify is a set of Python/Jupyter/Machine Learning tools to add color and generally try to rescue aging photographs. Fully Open Source and requiring fairly heavy-weight hardware I thing that it is one to keep an eye on.”
While FaceApp, makes a photograph of your face look older, DeOldify makes old photographs and movies look newer by cleaning up the scratches, fades and other signs of deterioration and by adding color using a sophisticated technique that makes it look realistic (not like those colorized versions of old ‘I Love Lucy’ shows that everyone hates). A review on Pixls.us from last year indicates it’s good but needs a lot of computer horsepower. The website for DeOldify calls it “a Deep Learning based project for colorizing and restoring old images (and video!)” and has plenty of before-and-after images. As you can see in the colorized video (watch it here), the end-result is a pretty representative depiction of what Benjamin probably looked like in 1933.
The video was uploaded to YouTube by user Mathias Pfeil without any explanation other than the link to DeOldify. It was then reported by Reddit user u/aperson974 and the comments, while colorful, don’t shed any more light on the film or the colorization.
Is this the best view we’ll ever get of the thylacine or is there a small group of them still breeding in hiding somewhere in Australia or Tasmania? While there’s a few people claiming to have witnessed them in the wild, there’s been no concrete evidence … and you can’t colorize facts.