Sadly, the last ‘known’ Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) died at Hobart Zoo in 1936, though ask any local, especially in the north western wilderness areas of Cradle Mountain about Thylacines and they’ll wax lyrical about reports of sightings in the area – a suspicious paw print in the forest or even a pile of stinking scat that’s like nothing they’ve ever seen. There’s plenty of reason (and hope) to believe they could possibly still exist, albeit in small numbers, hidden away in the wilds of Tasmania.
I’d really like to think so.
As recently as March 2021, local papers were abuzz with the news that The Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia (www.thylacineawarenessgroupofaustralia.com.au), claimed it had new photographic evidence of Thylacines alive and well in north-east Tasmania.
The group’s president said a camera trap had captured photos of a family of three, which was ‘proof of breeding’, though the Tasmanian Museum assessed the material and concluded that based on the physical characteristics shown in the photos, the animals were more likely to be Pademelons, which are small, very compact (actually, they’re fat and dumpy…the opposite of the svelte-like Thylacine), short-tailed wallabies – common throughout Tasmania. I’ve seen the photos too and have to agree, the animal doesn’t look at all like a Thylacine, but I guess people believe what they want to believe.
We spent four wonderful days over the Easter break in the high mountain wilds of Cradle Mountain (Tiger Country) in a gorgeous sensitively rebuilt ‘settlers shack’ on a remote 100-acre property.
What a place to escape to for a few days. No phone or internet reception. Just the wind in the trees and the brooding silence of the forest.
Sitting out on the wooden deck on a chilled misty morning you look out to the sub-alpine woodland surrounding the property – Myrtle and Antarctic Beech, Sassafras and Cider Gum tower above the undergrowth of scarlet Mountain Rocket. Spring-fed creeks and jewel-like trickles of crystal-clear rain water meander through the button grass and prickly broom heath, pooling around the vivid green mounds of Sphagnum moss glistening in the morning mist.
Talking of Tigers, we discovered, upon reading some information on the property that another Tiger roams this land, the Tiger Snake. According to our host, they’re quite shy and totally deaf (reassuring), but highly venomous (Yikes!). Our host mentioned that a Tiger Snake lived in the rock pile right in front of the house and loved to bask in the afternoon sunshine. Hmmm….Oh, and she also mentioned that if you do walk on the property, it might be a good idea to thump around and carry a large stick as they respond to vibration and will move away.
As a final piece of advice – ‘staying in the area after an attack can be dangerous so you should hot tail it as fast as you possibly can to Devonport hospital, whilst calling 000 as soon as you can get mobile reception.’ OK….I think we’ve taken all of that in.
According to the Australian Snakebite Project, three-quarters of people bitten by snakes are males aged in their 30’s (so that’s me safe then); The brown snake is the most likely to attack, followed by the tiger snake; Snakebites can often be painless and may go unnoticed and, over 90% of snakebites occur on the upper and lower limbs.
One of the most amazing plants I discovered on a walk in the Myrtle Forest was the incredible multi-coloured Cushion Plant (thankfully harmless), a sprawling spongy coral-like structure of tightly packed stems of different plants, all growing at an extremely slow rate in order to protect each other from the wind and cold. They are really quite exquisite.
Another thing you do notice here is the vast amount of animal scat on the ground, with steaming fresh deposits of poo along with ancient and desiccated pellets of all shapes and sizes.
It’s not to be sniffed at. Of course you initially wonder what belongs to what animal – you might even hazard a guess…
Thankfully, there was a guide available in the shack, the wonderfully named ‘Poo Flip’, the ‘life-size guide to the scats of Tasmanian native mammals’. It’s one of those ‘only in Australia’ discoveries…the ‘Poo Flip’ helps to identify the native mammals that abound throughout the property and Cradle Mountain Valley, including Platypus, Echidna, Wallaby, Bettong, Sugar Glider, Bandicoot, Tasmanian Devils and of course, Thylacines.
Here’s a little-known fact. Wombat poo is intriguingly square-shaped. One theory on this is that with their strong sense of smell, they communicate with each other via their faeces which they happily deposit on logs, rocks and mossy mounds. The cube shape helps prevent the faeces from rolling away…so there you have it. Who knew! The Poo Flip, hours of endless fun. Really it is.
Dreaming of Tigers again…
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?