German tourist snaps 'extinct' Tasmanian tiger

7th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 March 2005 , SYDNEY - Could it possibly be that a German tourist wandering in an Australian forest last month took digital photos of a Tasmanian tiger? The last confirmed sighting of the striped, wolf-like creature found only on the island of Tasmania was nearly 70 years ago. The species was declared extinct in 1986. It sounds highly unlikely but that hasn't extinguished the hopes of Tasmanian Museum director Bill Bleathman. He has seen the German's photographs and has appealed to him to submit them to s

7 March 2005

SYDNEY - Could it possibly be that a German tourist wandering in an Australian forest last month took digital photos of a Tasmanian tiger?

The last confirmed sighting of the striped, wolf-like creature found only on the island of Tasmania was nearly 70 years ago. The species was declared extinct in 1986.

It sounds highly unlikely but that hasn't extinguished the hopes of Tasmanian Museum director Bill Bleathman. He has seen the German's photographs and has appealed to him to submit them to scientific analysis in Hobart.

"They were really inconclusive," Bleathman told Australia's AAP news agency. "They were badly out of focus but certainly the animal in them looked like a thylacine."

The German claims to have snapped a thylacine with his digital camera while visiting Tasmania's Lake St Clair region. After his return to Germany, he got in touch with an Australian national daily, which was so impressed with his two digital images and his account that they flew his brother out to Hobart to meet officials.

It's not unusual for people to claim they have seen a Tasmanian tiger: there are a dozen or so claimed sightings a year. But this is the first time a claim has been backed with what's claimed to be photographic evidence.

Bleathman isn't the only one who is intrigued. Nick Mooney, a biologist with the Tasmanian state government, also saw the photographs and is sure the image is that of a thylacine.

But is it a real image or a doctored one?

Mooney says it is possible the species has survived in the Tasmanian wilderness. If the pictures are genuine, boffins at Sydney's Australian Museum will be glad that last month they gave up a million-dollar quest to extract usable DNA from a pup preserved in ethanol for 136 years.

They hoped to use the genetic material to clone a Tasmanian tiger. Their project began five years ago in a worldwide blaze of publicity.

Professor Mike Archer, who pledged to bring the thylacine back to life when he was Australian Museum director in 1999, said the decision to give up was disappointing.

"I and other colleagues remain interested in the project and I don't think that it will simply die because the museum can't proceed," he said. "The technology to make it happen is improving all the time, and I believe that science has a duty to continue to assemble the building blocks that will be needed to do this."

He might also reflect, in the fullness of time, that enormous improvements have been made in digital photography that allow incredible images to be created on home computers.

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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