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September 11, 2016

Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine

We’ve just come back from the Apple Isle, Tasmania.  Tasmania has been inhabited by indigenous people for 50,000 years.  At one time part of Tasmania was attached to the Australian mainland and part of it was attached to a Antarctica (Gondwana) .  Whilst walking in the temperate rain forests of South East Tasmania we were shown trees and other plants that have their closest relatives in South America.

In recent times the first European to visit and map part of Tasmania was Abel Tasman.  He named the island Van Diemen’s Land, after his sponsor the Governor of Batavia (Modern Indonesia), Anthony Van Diemen.  He didn’t explore the island too much as his sailors believed that the land was inhabited by giants.

Van Diemen’s Land was used as a place of exile by the British Empire.  It was particularly a favourite dumping ground for those ‘pesky’ Irish political agitators who wanted independence for their land, Eire.  The prison settlement near Hobart town was called Port Arthur, named after the imbecilic governor, George Arthur. It may seem unkind of me to refer Arthur as an imbecile but he actively encouraged the settlers to shoot every aborigine they encountered.

The island of Van Diemen’s Land was renamed ‘Tasmania’ after the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman in 1856.

Tasmanian Tiger, or Thylacine, became extinct in the 1930’s.  Despite many people claiming having seen it or evidence of its movements, no one really knows.  Having spent some time in the Tasmanian woods, it is conceivable that you could lose white elephants and never see them again.  Who knows.  The animals of Tasmania are certainly unique. The Tasmanian Devil is experiencing cancers that threaten to wipe the island’s populations out, so devils are being bred in safe zoos on the mainland where they once roamed but had become extinct.

The theory for why Tasmanian Devils are now experiencing such terrible diseases is that they were dependent on the thylacines to kill animals whilst they were content to feed off the remains (in effect they were scavengers).  Devils are able to extract their nutrition from the marrow in animals’ bones.  To achieve this feat nature has endowed them with the strongest biting strength of any mammal.  Without an Apex animal predator like a thylacine, the devils have to turn predator instead of scavenger and maybe the diseases that has been attacking them as a species is a consequence of this.


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