A skeleton of a Tasmanian Tiger stands on a plinth behind the stuffed and mounted specimen at the front of the cabinet. The Tasmanian Tiger was a type of thylacine, and was Australia’s largest marsupial carnivore.
This lifelike Tasmanian Tiger is the size of a sheep dog, with a small head, short rounded ears, a long thin neck and a dog-like rectangular snout. Its open mouth exposes long and sharp front incisors while jagged molars extend to the back of the mouth. Its body is covered with short coarse tan fur. Dark brown stripes 5 cm apart saddle across its back. These stripes become longer and darker as the spine arches slightly up before it descends to a cone shaped rump. From there the thick whip-like tail tapers quickly down to the width of human finger, as it drapes generously on the ground.
Although it looked like a dog, it was actually closely related to wombats, koalas and kangaroos. Both female and male Tasmanian Tigers had rear facing pouches, a rare feature in marsupials. In females, these helped protect the young during hunting. In males, they served to protect the reproductive organs.
By studying fossil evidence and Aboriginal rock art, we know this thylacine was once widespread over Australia. After its extinction on the mainland by about 3000 years ago it became restricted to Tasmania.
It was regarded as a pest by European settlers and was actively hunted under a government bounty system. The last known Tiger, named Benjamin, died in captivity in 1936 in Hobart Zoo. The Tasmanian Tiger is now a great reminder how easily even our most iconic Australian mammals can slide into extinction.