Until DNA researchers figure out a way to de-extinct the thylacine, or someone captures a live one rumored to still be roaming the Australian and Tasmanian bush, one of our only looks at the magnificent Tasmanian tiger is via black-and-white films of the last known member of the species – Benjamin, who was captured in either 1930 or 1931 and in the Hobart Zoo on September 6, 1936. The last known film of Benjamin is a 45 second black-and-white clip taken at the zoo in 1933 by naturalist David Fleay. That clip was colorized recently but it’s not the same as the real thing. Fortunately, a long-rumored second film – actually two films – of Benjamin in 1931 were discovered recently by a thylacine researcher who claims they were in an archive the whole time.
The films were discovered by thylacine researcher Andrew Vamvatsikos, who refers to one as the “well known Stewart film which was considered lost for a long time but now is finally found.” According to his post on Save the Thylacine, both films were taken by Dr. Randle Stewart, a Melbourne psychiatrist who was honeymooning in Tasmania between March 26th and April 17th when he took the films. While the longer clip of Benjamin is obviously the main attraction, Vamvatsikos points out that the second, which is primarily of a Tasmanian devil, shows Benjamin in the background, which makes it truly unique.
“(This) is the first Thylacine related media with both Thylacine and Tasmanian devil in the same film and frame.”
Mike Williams of CFZ Oz (www.cfzaustralia.blogspot.com), the Australian branch of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, posted the films on YouTube (watch them here) and explains the so-called Stewart film disappeared between 1978 and 1983. Both films were made at Beaumaris Zoo (Hobart Zoo), Queen's Domain, and were originally stored by the Tasmanian Film Corporation. They were later given to the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office. Those archives are available online and that’s where Vamvatsikos, a member of the Tasmanian Tiger Archives group, found them.
“I have once more put all 13 Thylacine footages together. Their running time now is over 4 minutes long. 11 filmed in Hobart Zoo and 2 in London Zoo. The oldest film is dated back in 1911 the last film was taken in 1935. 8 films feature the last captive Thylacine.”
If you’d like to see every known film of a living thylacine – prepare to be bummed out because there are only 13 – Vamvatsikos has made them available on his Facebook page, along with a number of photos, drawings and charts and data on the extinct Tasmanian tiger.
Of course, those are the VERIFED films of thylacines – the collection does not include trail cam or cellphone footage of animals that witnesses have claimed to be Tasmanian tigers but have no verification. The collection of films is a sad testament to the extinction of the magnificent Tasmanian tiger and finding a live one or creating a clone will not change the history of its last years on earth.