1936 - The Last Thylacine
"September arrived ... with ... extreme and unusual weather conditions. After the evening of [1st September] 1936, which had a below freezing minimum of 29.3F (-1.5C) there were nine consecutive days when the maximum temperature was in the 90sF or above ... The deciduous tree covering the thylacine's cage had lost its leaves for the winter. Without access to her den, the thylacine was unshaded from the extreme, unseasonal heat by day, and shelterless from the extreme cold by night...
... unprotected and exposed, the last known thylacine whimpered away during the night of 7 September 1936..."
Thus writes Robert Paddle in his book "The Last Tasmanian Tiger: The History and Extinction of the Thylacine"
But is it extinct?
Countless expeditions have been undertaken to search for conclusive evidence of the thylacine's ongoing existence.
From "Tigerman"'s free online book publication, Magnificent Survivor which chronicles the Tasmanian evidence, to sightings as far away as Irian Jaya, the debate has never been hotter as to the persistence of this species.
On at least two occassions cameras have captured animals which the photographer believed were thylacines.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a spate of sightings in Australian mainland's state of South Australia. In 1973 Liz and Gary Doyle captured 6 seconds of film, possibly showing a thylacine running across the road.
But how credible is the evidence? The online Thylacine Museum (see above link) describes it as "rather fascinating" whilst noting that critics feel it may be a fox or dog.
A selection of stills appears in the footer of this page and Where Light Meets Dark hopes to present a more detailed analysis in the future. (Do contact me if you have more information about that sighting.)
Paddle presents at least some evidence that the thylacine existed in South Australia in the early 1800s, despite the popular conception that it died out on the mainland several hundred, if not thousand, years ago.
The second notable occassion in which a thylacine was allegedly captured on (digital) "film" was in 2005 and by Klaus Emmerichs, a German tourist on holiday in Tasmania.
These photos have been the subject of a lengthy discourse here at Where Light Meets Dark.
The present status of the analysis is that finally, the poor quality of the scans with which I have been working, prohibits me from drawing a conclusion as to whether or not the thylacine moved between the two photos taken by Emmerichs.
I have been in communication with Klaus, and I share Col Bailey's opinion that Emmerichs is "an honourable man and is telling the truth about this matter".
Certainly Klaus' description of the detail present in the original photographs makes the images sound even more genuine, but even the poor quality reproductions used in the analysis on Where Light Meets Dark lend considerable strength to his claims.
But is there possibly a third camera to have captured the thylacine on film?
Internationally renowned conservationist, Steve Irwin "had gone on expeditions in search of the Thylacine" (see Cryptomundo) and "there's even a rumor that he might have captured an elusive Thylacine on film" (see Cryptomundo again).
With Steve's passing this week, now is not the time to be asking questions about rumoured films, but it should prove interesting to determine the validity of that claim.
How will we know when we know?
With over 3800 mainland Australian sightings in addition to Tasmanian sightings and now also sightings in Irian Jaya, one thing is certain - there are plenty of people who believe they've seen it live on.
Films and photographs have been both taken and intentionally feigned, footprint casts and scats have been collected, but on paper at least, the thylacine is still extinct - now 70 years to this day.
Will there ever be film footage or photographic evidence good enough to declare it's continuity? Will someone finally acquire a live specimen or at least a recently deceased one?
It seems that without a body, the thylacine will remain in the shadows.