The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia found a recording of the thylacine made a few months before the species was declared extinct.
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) released a recording on Tuesday (19) of what is thought to be the last footage of a thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger, extinct in 1936.
According to Charles Feigin, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Melbourne, this animal was not actually a tiger. “They were this bizarre and singular species. There was nothing else like them in the world at the time,” the specialist told Nature magazine in 2017. The animal had the face and body of a dog, a pouch to carry the young, like kangaroos, and stripes – which is why it became known as the Tasmanian tiger.
The animal in the photo released by the NFSA is Benjamino, who died at the Australian Hobart Zoo on September 7, 1936. Because of technological limitations at the time, there are few images of the thylacine (less than six). The most recent footage was found in a forgotten Tasmanian travel diary and is now digitally preserved in 4K.
The recording took place at the zoo around March 1935, a year after the last known image of the thylacine, and shows an animal handler shaking the Tasmanian tiger cage. The NFSA said the intention could have been to make it roar. Benjamin died 18 months later, and the species was officially extinct.
However, there are recent reports of thylacines in the wild. In 2019, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment released a document pointing to the possible existence of eight specimens of the species. The Thylacine Awareness Group believes the animal still roams across mainland Australia.
According to Cath Temper, a mammal expert at the South Australian Museum, if the species still exists, it would be extraordinary. “There’s never been a thylacine specimen from the mainland,” she told BBC in 2016. Although it persisted in Tasmania until the 1930s, it is believed that the animal was exterminated from mainland Australia more than 3,000 years ago.
Until scientists find a live specimen or clone the animal, we will have to be content with the few images that exist of these exotic creatures.