Thylacinus cynocephalus

The last wild individual was captured in 1933. It died at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania in 1936.

Australia’s Disgrace

The following is a textual transcription of the Tasmanian tiger account in the book “The Annihilation of Nature: human extinction of birds and mammals” by Ceballos et al (2015, John Hopkins Press, Baltimore). Available at John Hopkin’s Press and Amazon.

One of the most tragic of Australia’s extinction events is that of the thylacine, more often referred to as the Tasmanian tiger. It was the largest carnivorous marsupial surviving into modern times, similar to a coyote in size and shape. It was on the one hand ferocious, but on the other hand nurturing--rearing its young in its marsupial maternal belly pouch. Thylacines became extinct in mainland Australia by the time of the European colonization but persisted on the Australian island of Tasmania.

Thylacines often killed sheep and chickens brought in by settlers, so the Tasmanian government encouraged residents to hunt them and even paid a bounty. In the late nineteenth century, a naturalist wrote: “the native dog, is a marsupial animal . . . covered with a dirty yellowish-brown fur, with traverse stripes of a brownish black colour on its back. These animals caused much annoyance to the first settlers . . . [so] it was found necessary to offer a reward for destroying them.” The extermination effort proved to be quite efficient and was coupled with various factors including introduced diseases from domestic dogs and the destruction of native habitat. The last lonely Tasmanian tiger died in 1936 in a zoo in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania.


This marsupial was distributed throughout Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania in the Pleistocene. However, its distribution eventually became restricted to Tasmania.


The reasons of its extinction are not precise. It is believed to have decreased due to competition with domestic dogs, indiscriminate hunting by humans, and a distemper-like illness. It was hunted by farmers who were outraged by the sheep killed by these carnivores.

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