There were high hopes the La Nina would bring a load of rain, but the Weather Bureau’s three-month anomaly map for Nov/Dec/Jan 2020-21 tells the story.
The south-west’s drying trend appears to be continuing.
At least Tasmania didn’t burn this year (yet), as it did in 2019.
The Wandering Foxbat (an aerial video YouTube channel) toured the south-west after the Gell River fire, here’s their graphic footage showing the charred Tasmanian moonscape … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7XdzB32f28
A study of the more convincing thylacine sightings over the past 100 years found the species did not go extinct in the 1930s, as is the common mantra, but probably died off in the 1990s.
The researchers said there was a chance the animal still lives in Tasmania’s remote areas today.
As someone who owns a farm which borders the south-west wilderness, I can say two thylacines were alive and well in 2012.
But first, a quote from the study: ” … if the species is indeed now extinct, (this) occurred much later than the commonly held date of 1936. Indeed, the inferred extinction window is wide and relatively recent, spanning from the 1980s to the present day, with extinction most likely in the late 1990s or early 2000s. While improbable, these aggregate data and modelling suggest some chance of ongoing persistence in the remote wilderness of the island.”
Interestingly, the authors found that thylacine sightings or other evidence was reported almost every year in Tasmania. To quote again: “The final database comprised 1237 entries (99 physical records, 429 expert sightings), with observations from all years except 1921, 2008 and 2013.”
I had believed the animals were extinct when I moved to rural Tasmania in 2011, so it was a shock when two thylacines visited our farm for a short period in 2012.
If they were still around in 2012, having survived decades of bounties, bushfires, angry farmers and in-breeding, then they are probably still out there now.
Yes, it is hard to believe, but even in the early days of white settlement these animals were rarely seen, it was only the trappers that brought them into public view.
What’s more, with devil numbers at a historic low from the ravages of facial cancer, and prey animals such as wallabies historically abundant, there’s every chance thylacine numbers may now increase.
Thylacine studies have been wildly different in their findings.
Another scientist matched credible eyewitness sightings with ideal thylacine habitat and found a correlation so powerful he believed people were actually seeing thylacines.
The problem with thylacine studies lies in the saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.”
None of these studies include, for example, my own experience, and no doubt there are other witnesses who have not come forward to officially report a sighting.
Eyewitnesses don’t want to be ridiculed, some simply don’t want the attention, some fear that reporting a thylacine might endanger the animal, and others fear that proving the existence of thylacines would empower the Greens.
There may also be cases where these animals have been killed, on purpose or by accident. People aren’t going to report that.
So with all this missing information, researchers are left with only some data to put into their studies.
As I said, when I moved to Tasmania I assumed thylacines were long gone.
When two animals that yip-yipped like hyenas started knocking off our chickens at night I at first refused to believe they could be thylacines.
The animals came at least three times, though we heard the loud and distinct call between the two animals only once.
And yes, we have had quolls, devils and possums disturb the chickens. This was very different. They were not feral dogs.
I have obliquely mentioned the yip-yipping animals to locals over the years, usually to receive the equivalent of an eye roll.
Rather than “go public” with the story I decided to wait until the animals returned and set off my camera trap, so I could present real evidence.
Unfortunately, the animals never returned, to my knowledge anyway.
The chickens are fenced off now, so there’s no longer that incentive for thylacines to visit. We haven’t mysteriously lost any lambs or sheep over the years either (EDIT – we lost three tiny late-born lambs last year but there was a big devil around at the time).
The only local who took my story seriously was a chap who works in forestry, and he believed me because he thought he saw a thylacine at a remote forestry area, and he has seen footprints in these areas.
Those who cross paths with a thylacine tend to go silly, with their new life quest being the pursuit of visual evidence to prove they aren’t a fringe-dwelling nutter.
So far, despite the wonders of affordable no-glow trailcams, camera drones and what-not, Tasmania’s surviving thylacines have remained elusive, leaving witnesses gibbering to anyone who’ll listen how the animals are still here, but without the witness being able to provide actual proof.
Fortunately, the pursuit of tiger evidence is not without its rewards, even when tigers don’t show.
Our hidden cameras and evening wanderings with a Canon SLR have picked up several devils, some of which do not have facial cancers, eastern bandicoots, feral cats, wombats, wallabies great and small, echidnas, possums with their young, eagles, and other birds.
The big devil in the picture above does unfortunately appear to have a lump on its jaw, but it is hard to know if it is a cancer or the jawline.
The photo is interesting because it demonstrates that sheep aren’t too fussed by them being around, although the youngest lambs might disagree, as three of our late ones simply disappeared this year.
Meanwhile, we wait patiently for the thylacines’ return. It has been a long eight years and I hope they hurry, as I can’t live forever, and battery purchases for my trail cameras are sending me broke.
For those of you who read this at the time of posting, have a great Xmas.
The data tells the story … we’ve had good rain in the Huon in the first week of October, but the Weather Bureau rainfall anomaly map for September (top image) shows below-average rainfall in the south-west and west of Tasmania.
Lake Gordon is still half empty (bottom image).
It wasn’t long ago when Lake Gordon hit a record low of 46m below full capacity.
That was in March 2016, during a drought, and when the Bass Strait cable also broke, creating extra hydro-power demand.
The lake was so low the government worried that silt might damage the turbines.
On a lighter note, watch the impressive video below and try to tell me thylacines are not still here.
Miles and miles of rugged country where no one sets foot.
The bounty-hunting tiger trappers who plied the state from the 1830s didn’t hit the remote south-west much because it was hard country and not as productive.
However, it was well-noted that thylacines lived in rugged country right across the state.
The south-west was known to have fewer animals of all kinds than the fertile north, but thylacines were recorded there.
They were recorded in the Huon, including the “Monster of Mountain River”, an animal that scared some locals in 1949 before (apparently) disappearing back into the wilderness.
Often-repeated claims that thylacines only lived on the plains are untrue, as historic reports make it clear they liked rugged areas away from people.
The mystery is why they have not grown in numbers and moved back to areas they were once known to inhabit, given that they are no longer culled by bounty hunters, and have presumably survived the mange disease that greatly lessened their numbers around 1910.
Are there too many domestic and feral dogs around now, scaring them off?
Or is it because the Tasmanian emus, which went extinct in the 1860s, are no longer a reliable food source to bring them out into more open country?
Thylacines were rarely seen even before the bounty days. They were always elusive.
The thing that changed somewhere along the way was that people stopped believing the eyewitness reports.
Thylacine sightings never stopped. It is unlikely all the witnesses are deluded or mistaken.
The great Tasmanian fox cull around 2012 was arguably the true delusion, but there were dollars to be made, so perhaps it wasn’t so crazy for those involved.
Tasmania’s wild south-west as viewed from a light aircraft