A wildlife expert rejected claims of sighting of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, declaring that the animals photographed were probably pamelao.
Devotees of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, were abuzz this week with the potential new discovery that, if confirmed, would have brought the animal back from the dead.
The Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia, an amateur nonprofit organization dedicated to the elusive creature, claimed it had photographic evidence of three thylacines living happily in northeastern Tasmania.
In a video posted on YouTube, the group’s chairman, Neil Waters, said a camera trap had captured photos of a family of three thylacines, including a baby, which was “proof of reproduction”.
But Nick Mooney, honorary curator of vertebrate zoology at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, reviewed and evaluated the material provided by Waters.
In a statement, TMAG said that Mooney “concluded that, based on the physical characteristics shown in the photos provided, it is very unlikely that the animals are thylakine, and most likely Tasmanian pimpelons”.
“TMAG regularly receives verification requests from members of the public who hope that thylacine is still with us. However, unfortunately, there have been no documented confirmed sightings of thylacine since 1936. ”
Thylacine is believed to have been extinct since 1936, when the last living thylacine, Benjamin, died at the Hobart Zoo. But unconfirmed sightings have been regularly reported for decades.
In 2017, scientists at James Cook University in Queensland also conducted a search to the marsupial after several “plausible” sightings.
A 2019 document from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment revealed that there were eight alleged tilacin sightings between 2016 and 2019.
Forrest Galante, American television host for Animal Planet, contributed to the previous hype when he shared the video about the potential “rediscovery of the wildlife of the century” on Twitter.
Mooney’s conclusion will be a blow to thylacine enthusiasts, who were convinced that they finally had the evidence they needed.
In his ad video, Waters said that he and the “committee” of the thylacine group discovered photos from a camera in northeastern Tasmania.
“For the past 10 days, I’ve probably been acting a little weird for everyone in the group and online,” said Waters. “That’s because when I was checking the SD cards, I found some pictures that were very good.
“We believe that the first image is the mother, we know that the second image is the baby, because it is very small, and the third image is the father.”
Waters said the photo of the alleged mother and father “is ambiguous”, but that the baby was definitely a thylacine.
“The baby is not ambiguous, the baby has stripes, a rigid tail, the hock, the rough hair, is the right color, is a quadruped, stocky and has the right ears,” he said.
“Looking at the baby, not only do we have a family walking through the bush, but we also have proof of creation.”
Waters said this would put “thylacine in a much stronger position than it has been in the past 30-something years” – referring to the 1990s for some reason.
He ended: “Congratulations to everyone. We did it, cheers! “
Waters told Guardian Australia in 2016 that he saw a thylakine in 2014, when he was working from home and passed through his bedroom window.
In 2018, two people from Western Australia reported seeing a thylacine when visiting Tasmania, according to a report by the state’s environment department.
“The animal walked on the right side of the road … turned and looked at the vehicle a few times,” he said. “It was in sight for 12-15 seconds.
“The animal had a hard and firm tail, with a thick base. It had stripes on the back. It was the size of a large Kelpie (bigger than a fox, smaller than a German shepherd).
“The animal was calm and didn’t look scared. Both are 100% certain that the animal they saw was a thylacine. It seemed to be in good condition. “