Last of its kind: ‘Precious’ footage emerges of extinct Tasmanian tiger

Click to play video: 'Australia’s national archives release last known video of extinct Tasmanian tiger'
Australia’s national archives release last known video of extinct Tasmanian tiger
WATCH: Australia’s national archives have released the last known footage of the thylacine, the so-called “Tasmanian tiger” that went extinct. – May 19, 2020

The long-extinct Tasmanian tiger has been digitally resurrected for a new generation after Australia’s national archives released the last known footage of the animal from 1935.

The Tasmanian tiger was a four-legged, predatory marsupial that looked like a slender dog or wolf, with a striped back and a concealed pouch under its belly. The last known specimen was a male called Benjamin, and it died in captivity on Sept. 7, 1936, taking its whole species with it.

The recently unearthed footage shows Benjamin approximately one year before he died.

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) says it managed to recover and digitize the footage from an old news reel clip recorded in 1935. The footage shows Benjamin pacing inside a cage at the now-defunct Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

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“These recently digitized 4K images represent the preservation of the last-known surviving moving images of Australia’s most famous extinct predator,” NFSA curator Simon Smith said in a news release.

“The Tasmanian tiger, easily distinguished by his striped, unjointed tail, is also a dangerous opponent,” the old-timey narrator says in the recovered clip. The narrator describes the Tasmanian tiger as “very rare” because it has been “forced out of its natural habitat by the march of civilization.”

The Tasmanian tiger can be seen wandering around its cage in the clip, while a few people hammer on the fence to get a reaction out of it.

“This is the only one in captivity in the world,” the narrator adds.

The last known Tasmanian tiger in captivity is shown in this still image from ‘Tasmania the Wonderland,’ a 1935 newsreel clip. National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

The Tasmanian tiger was already rapidly disappearing from the world when humans invented video cameras, so very few recordings actually exist of the long-dead creature. All of the known footage was recorded at zoos, the NFSA says. The footage is entirely black and white and silent.

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The latest clip adds 21 seconds to that total.

“The scarcity of thylacine footage makes every second of moving image really precious,” Smith said. “We’re very excited to make this newly-digitized footage available to everyone online.”

The NFSA says it hopes to find more lost clips of the Tasmanian tiger, including footage of the animal in the wild. Archivists also hope to find colour footage of the thylacine and — perhaps — a recording of what the long-lost animal actually sounded like.

The Tasmanian tiger used to roam Australia and New Guinea, but it had already died out there and was confined to Tasmania by the early 1900s.

The animal has been considered extinct for over eight decades. However, wildlife officials have received scattered reports over the years of alleged sightings of the creature in Tasmania.

No concrete evidence has been recorded and the Tasmanian tiger is still considered extinct.


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