Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian Tiger)

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Common names: Tasmanian tiger, Tasmanian wolf, Marsupial wolf, hyena, zebra-wolf


  • once widespread
  • disappeared from mainland Australia 2000 – 3000 years ago; probably suffered in competition with dingoes
  • ran into problems with European settlers in Tasmania when the animals affected livestock

1830 *

  • a bounty system for thylacine scalps was introduced; firstly by the Van Dieman’s Land Co and then by the State Government

1933 *

  • last wild thylacine was shot

1936 *

  • last captive thylacine died in Hobart zoo


  • thylacine declared a protected species


  • David Fleay led a ‘ tiger hunt’ to the west coast of Tasmania; found fresh tracks and baited traps to capture an animal; a Thylacine approached a trap but escaped


  • part of the lower jaw aged around 10,000 years was found in New Guinea


  • almost complete skeleton found in a cave on the Nullabor Plain; aged about 3250 years


  • almost complete mummified carcass found in a cave near Eucla, WA; aged about 4500 years


  • comprehensive search fails to find anything


  • sighting by National Parks & Wildlife Officer


  • extensive search failed to find any evidence
  • sightings and collections of dung and hair continue to be reported but there has been no firm evidence
  • there have been numerous ‘sightings’ in southwest WA and in VIC


  • dog-like
  • carnivorous marsupial
  • body length of 1.2m (4ft); tail length 0.5m (1.6ft); weight 25kg (55lb)
  • 15-20 dark stripes across its back and rump
  • backward-opening pouch
  • rigid tail like a kangaroo – couldn’t be wagged
  • enormous jaw gape; when a thylacine yawned, the upper and lower
  • jaws formed almost a straight line


  • open woodlands with rocky outcrops where lairs were established


  • wallabies, bandicoots and other small marsupials, echidnas, birds, reptiles
  • sheep, chickens


  • not seen very often even when relatively common
  • spent the day in cave except for basking in midday sun
  • hunted from dusk to dawn, usually alone
  • followed the scent of its prey
  • chased prey at a measured pace until prey was exhausted
  • killed by biting the neck


  • mating season was in spring
  • young found in the pouch all year round
  • produced 3 or 4 young that were 2 cm long
  • young left pouch after 3-4 months but kept returning for milk until 9 months

References – books

  • Australia’s Amazing Wildlife, 1985. Bay Books, Kensington NSW.
  • Complete Book Of Australian Mammals, R Strahan (ed), 1983. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London.
  • Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife, Reader’s Digest Australia Pty Ltd, 1997. Reader’s Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Surrey Hills.
  • Wildlife Conservation, HJ Frith, 1979. Angus & Robertson, London.
  • A Natural History of Australia, 1998. TM Berra, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
  • Bunyips & Bigpoots, M Smith, 1996. Millennium Books, Alexandria.
  • Talking of Animals, D Fleay, 1956. Jacaranda Press, Brisbane.

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Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian Tiger)

Taxonomy Common names: Tasmanian tiger, Tasmanian wolf, Marsupial wolf, hyena, zebra-wolf History