People, Environment

Sightings Raise Hope for Tasmanian Tiger Comeback

Sightings Raise Hope for Tasmanian Tiger ComebackSightings Raise Hope for Tasmanian Tiger Comeback

Recent reported sightings of the Tasmanian tiger have provided enough incentive for scientists to conduct a search for the animals.

The last thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, was thought to have died in a zoo in 1936, the victim of ignorance and neglect on the part of its keepers.

The carnivorous marsupial, whose range once extended throughout Australia, was already rare and confined to Tasmania when European colonists arrived in the early 19th century. Habitat loss, disease and hunting decimated the remaining population, CNET reported.

But two credible sightings of animals strongly resembling thylacines have scientists hoping the species might not be extinct after all. And if they are Tasmanian tigers, they've been hiding out—not in Tasmania, but in Far North Queensland, Australia.

Researchers at Australia's James Cook University plan to begin the hunt for surviving thylacines this month, using 50 camera traps on the Cape York Peninsula, where the sightings took place. The project has the additional benefit of surveying other vulnerable species in the area.

“We had two highly detailed reports from very experienced people … It was on the strength of these observations that we decided to incorporate a search for thylacines as part of our ongoing surveys of declining mammal populations on Cape York Peninsula," William F. Laurance, Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation at James Cook University in Australia, in an interview with the Observer.

If camera traps photograph what could be a Tasmanian tiger, the next step for researchers is to obtain a DNA sample to confirm.

“DNA can be most easily sampled with hair traps that grab a bit of fur off of animals that are investigating a scent or meat bait. It’s a completely harmless method and is quite effective,” Laurence added.

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