Skip to comments.Could the Tasmanian tiger be hiding out in New Guinea?
Posted on 06/18/2013 11:56:05 AM PDT by presidio9
Many people still believe the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) survives in the wilds of Tasmania, even though the species was declared extinct over eighty years ago. Sightings and reports of the elusive carnivorous marsupial, which was the top predator on the island, pop-up almost as frequently as those of Bigfoot in North America, but to date no definitive evidence has emerged of its survival. Yet, a noted cryptozoologist (one who searches for hidden animals), Dr. Karl Shuker, wrote recently that tiger hunters should perhaps turn their attention to a different island: New Guinea.
The Tasmanian tiger, also known as the thylacine, once populated much of Tasmanian and mainland Australiawhere it is also still searched forbut few know that the animal was present on New Guinea as well. Its prehistoric presence there first came to light in 1960 when archeologists discovered the lower jaw of a Tasmanian tiger.
"Further confirmed fossil remains, dating at over 2 million years old, have subsequently been found on New Guinea; and also in later years, unconfirmed sightings of thylacine-like beasts have been reported from both Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Irian Jaya (the western, Indonesian half of New Guinea)," Shuker told mongabay.com.
While Tasmanian tigers are believed to have died out in New Guinea at the end of the Pleistocene, Shuker believes there's a chance a population still survives on the mountainous island, which contains some of the world's least-explored terrestrial habitats.
"New Guinea, especially Irian Jaya, is far less well-explored than either Tasmania or mainland Australia, as confirmed for instance by recent expeditions to Irian Jaya's Foja Mountains, where several new and potentially new species were discovered, including a giant rat, a tiny wallaby, and a new honeyeater," Shuker says. "Consequently, there is a much greater chance of zoological novelties turning up here than elsewhere within the thylacine's former distribution range, and one such novelty may be the thylacine itself."
In fact, curious stories have filtered out of New Guinea in recent years. In Irian Jaya, some tribal groups talk of a local canine-like animal known locally as the "dobsegna." According to Shuker, descriptions of the animalnot yet confirmed or identified by scientiststrack closely to the Tasmanian tiger, including a massive mouth (notably, Tasmanian tigers could open their mouths up to 120 degrees) and a long straight tail. In addition, Shuker says he does not believe the dobsegna refers to another wild canine on the island: the New Guinea singing dog.
"The singing dog is not striped (unlike the mysterious dobsegna and the thylacine), and does not have a stiffened tail (which the dobsegna does, just like the thylacine). Moreover, native tribes are very familiar with the singing dog, which they have hunted for food in the past when it was still common, whereas they seem much more wary and even frightened of the dobsegna," explains Shuker.
However, so far these reports, however tantalizing, remain just that: hear-say. No one has yet brought back proof, such as photos, videos, samples, or the Holy Grail of cryptozoologists: a living animal.
Shuker says the next step is to "send out dedicated expeditions to Irian Jaya and Papaua New Guinea in search of [the Tasmanian tiger], or in search of preserved relics of it in native villages." Some possible starting places: the forests around Mount Giluwe in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands and those surrounding Puncak Jaya in Indonesian New Guinea.
In fact, new conservation technologies and techniques could make determining the status of the Tasmanian tiger in New Guinea easy, at least compared to a few decades ago. Remote camera traps have been employed worldwide to document rare and cryptic forest animals, including even playing a role in discovering new species. According to local people, the mysterious dobsegna are incredibly wary and stay hidden during the day, making remote camera traps an optimal tool for confirming this animal's extinction. Another more recent breakthrough in conservation is using DNA gathered from blood-sucking invertebrates, such as leeches and flies, to determine what they have been feeding on. Scientists mix the blood-meals together and then tease out the various DNA markers. Scientists already have DNA from Tasmanian tiger pelts, making a match possible.
Even if a relic population of Tasmanian tigers survives in New Guinea, time may be running out for it and other species. In the last decade, New Guineaboth the Indonesian half and the Papua halfhas seen a major expansion in deforestation and ecosystem degradation. Illegal logging, road-building, monoculture plantations, and mining are becoming rife across the country, in many cases leading to conflict between locals and overseas corporations.
But Shuker says "there are still very sizable areas presently untouched by deforestation," adding that "clearly, because of such threats to their existence, this ought to provide a major incentive for seeking and confirming their existence, should they genuinely exist, as their habitat can then (one hopes!) receive official ongoing protection, thereby ensuring their survival."
If the Tasmanian tiger still resides in the wilds of New Guineaand it's a big ifthe find would certainly be among the most amazing zoological discoveries of the last hundred years. In addition, whatever scientists or adventurers uncovered it would be immortalized in the annals of science. Of course, that's assuming that thousands of years after its presumed local extinction, the Tasmanian tigerthat wide-mouthed, tiger-striped, marsupial predatorstill haunts the night forests of New Guinea.
If so, it’s not my fault.
If they find them, I want one.
The Government of Tasmania passed a law giving them official protection.....59 days before the last known one died in a zoo.
Government EPIC FAIL!
That’s impossible, the government fixes all problems. /s
It’s disappearance in its native range is usually attributed to government bounties.
Irian Jaya is now called "Papua". The locals want it that way.
Of all the animals on earth, the tiger is the one that I fear the most.
I live on the island of New Guinea, in Papua.
Save the tiger......
Do you really?
What are you doing there?
Interesting and sad film. Saw it in my early 20s a long time ago.
Could be. In New Guinea it was thought by the European colonial powers that the highlands were basically deserted and that all the population was on the coasts. But the highlands turned out to be the most populated. So if people were only discovered there in the 1930’s, who can say what still is to be found there?
My husband and I are teachers at Hillcrest International School.
I don't want to encounter a tiger in the wild.
Actually, the last people group that I know about was found around 1997 by an linguist/anthropolgist from Australia (I can’t remember his name) and a linguist named Mike Moxness. There have been rumors around our organization that another group is out there, but no one has been able to say definitely yet.
That’s cool that you teach there. Those tigers looked small in the pic. I’m guessing they were nasty? Are there “regular” tigers where you are?
There are no other tigers here. We are on the east side of the Wallace Line so our flora and fauna differs from Java and Sumatra.
It does look small in that pic, and it looks more canine than feline. We have our share of yucky dangerous things including death adders, crocodiles, cassowaries and feral pigs.
Are you allowed to pack heat in Papua?
You sure do get around. The last reference I saw on you you lived in Alabama!
I do live in Alabama. I work over here for four years, or so, and then I’m home in Alabama for a year, and so forth.
I’ve been usually using planes, but I’m looking to switch to a cargo ship if I can figure out how to do it.