The Real Reason The Tasmanian Tiger Went Extinct

At one time the Tasmanian tiger — the world's largest marsupial carnivore and a cousin of the Tasmanian Devil— roamed Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Tasmania. Sometimes called the thylacine, which translates to dog-headed pouched one, the animal also featured unique tiger-like stripes. A partially nocturnal creature, the Tasmanian tiger liked its quiet and tended to avoid humans (from the National Museum of Australia).

The last-known of its kind, a Tasmanian tiger named Benjamin, died on September 7, 1936, in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart — just 59 days after the animal received protected status. Since then, no evidence has appeared to show the creatures still exist, although periodically — eight times from 2016 to 2019 — people still report seeing the unusual tiger. For example, the Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia, a not-for-profit organization devoted to the animal, purported that a camera trap took photos of a family of three. Zoology expert Nick Mooney from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery looked at the footage and ascertained the assertion was wrong since "based on the physical characteristics shown in the photos provided, the animals are very unlikely to be thylacines, and most likely Tasmanian pademelons," quoted in the Guardian

How did this funny-looking creature — seemingly part-dog, part-tiger with a long tail similar to a kangaroo's — go extinct?

Benjamin, the last Tasmanian tiger, dies

Part of the Tasmanian tiger's problem was man. While it once thrived in its natural environment in three countries, over time, Tasmania became its only home, according to Untamed Science. Australian colonists took dogs to their new home and one theory supposes that these canines and the new diseases they brought ended their presence there. When settlers arrived in Tasmania during the 1800s, about 5000 Tasmanian tigers existed. Humans hunted the animals, believing the creatures would kill their livestock. The Tasmanian government even created a bounty system, paying sums to 2,180 claims, and facilitating their extinction.

Evidence indicates that all the worries about the tiger's going after livestock were false. According to The Conversation, some naturalists believe the animal's body shows that they probably ate much smaller prey since the tigers had an extended snout and dental features not usually compatible with bone-crushing larger animals such as sheep. They likely ate smaller animals like possums and bandicoots.

The thylacines also tended to breed slowly, only having up to four youngsters at a time — far fewer than some other mammals, reported Untamed Science. Even the last Tasmanian tiger found hardship. Benjamin got locked out of his shelter one cold night and died from exposure — the last thylacine destroyed by neglect.