Are we on the cusp of finally confirming that the thylacine – a.k.a. the Tasmanian tiger – is not extinct but still roams Australia, breeding and growing in numbers? Or are we on the cusp of de-extincting the species using a growing collecting of DNA samples and the newly discovered data of how close the species is to wolves? Both possibilities were in the news this week with an interesting eyewitness report from Adelaide and a comment from the doctor working with thylacine DNA.
“Thylacine sighting: 21/01/21
At approximately 6.00am SA time 2 days ago, a man leaving his home for work froze in awe at what he was seeing in the front part of his property in the Adelaide Hills when he saw what he could only describe as a female Thylacine with 2 young darting around very quickly about 6-10m away. He didn't have his phone on him at the time and was amazed at what he was seeing. The mans wife had previously told him of a large animal she saw at dusk approx 3 years ago near a small dam on the property, and at the time, he thought she was seeing things.”
Neil Waters, the founder and head of the Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia (TAGOA) and one of the best-known seekers of the thylacine, posted that eyewitness report on the group’s Facebook page this week. The Adelaide Hills is a mountainous area east of Adelaide in South Australia with plenty of places for a rare creature to hide and stay hidden. The darkness of the time (6 am) and the lack of photos or a video make the report non-definitive, so Waters contacted the witness for more info.
“Last night however when we spoke and I interviewed them both, it was clear he now has 100% belief in what his wife had witnessed as he too has now seen the un-believable. A podcast of our discussion will be released soon on our Youtube channel, as well as Mark Taylors report when he heads out there in the next day or so to set up trail cameras and get a handle on the area....more to come soon.”
Comments on the sighting are mostly positive and hopeful, and Waters added this very telling piece of witness’s testimony to one of them:
“… the sighting time has no bearing on their habits I don't think since they could be there more often but don't always get seen. The witnesses both claim that they have heard weird noises of a screaming nature several times and just fobbed it off. The beauty of this sighting is that the Husband saw the mother make the weird screechy noise...that part is rare as rocking horse shit..."
That is rare indeed, so we’ll anxiously await further investigation in the area. In the meantime, University of Melbourne professor Andrew Pask expounded on his recent research of ancient wolf remains and ancient thylacine (a.k.a. Tasmanian wolf) DNA which showed an amazing similarity – from embryos to newborn pups to adulthood – between the otherwise unrelated species.
"It is no longer science fiction. We have all the tools to do it, it would just take so long."
“We are really fascinated with learning more about the biology of the thylacine, it is really different to any other marsupial. All of this does actually contribute and I really one day the tech becomes cheap enough and available enough to de-extinct the thylacine. We wouldn't have even considered this ten years ago."
That’s the good news from Pask, who compares the de-extinction of the thylacine to similar work being done in the U.S. with woolly mammoth DNA. That work is already progressing, but Pask gives a huge warning about a similar de-extinction of the thylacine -- it would take decades and billions of dollars that many believe would be better spent preserving the living marsupials that are facing the same extinction.
Or on finding proof that the thylacine is not extinct and actually living and in tiny packs in the Adelaide hills? Let’s hope for both and pray for the latter.