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Time to give up on Tasmanian tiger, says DNA expert

Money and energy spent on finding the Tasmanian tiger should be used for other conservation purposes, according to Dr. Jeremy Austin from the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Ancient DNA.

The Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, has captured the imagination of cryptozoologists ever since the last known individual died in the 1936 in the Hobart Zoo, which closed the next year. There have been several unreported sightings throughout the island since the 1930s, including inconclusive photos taken by German tourists in 2005.

However, Austin’s lab has examined numerous dropping believed to be from the Tasmanian tiger only to find that most belong to the Tasmanian devil. This continued lack of success for Austin means there is little to no hope of discovering a living Tasmanian tiger.

Photo of Tasmanian Tigers in the National Zoo, Washington DC in 1906. Photograph by E.J. Keller, from the Smithsonian Institution archives.

According to a Tasmanian newspaper, The Mercury, Austin is also doubtful of efforts to clone a Tasmanian tiger. He believes that DNA fragments of the animal are too broken to create a complete genome, and even if a Tasmanian tiger could be cloned, it would only provide the world with a single individual which couldn’t reproduce.

The millions of dollars it would take to clone a Tasmanian tiger would be better spent on conservation efforts for the hundreds of threatened species including several in Tasmania, according to Austin.

Once the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian tiger was likely driven extinct by human persecution, disease, and competition with the non-native dingo.

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