Evidence thus far...
My search for the Thylacine with TAGOA really started in January 2014, whilst in Tasmania on holiday and doing some renovations on my home in preparation for it to become a holiday rental that I would end up naming, Tassie Tiger Lodge.
One night in early January of that year, i was standing at the bedroom window with it open to allow some fresh air into the house. The wood-fire was on in the adjoining room and although it was a bit chilly, the fire was roaring inside and the house was becoming stuffy.
While I stood there with the French windows wide open staring into the moonlit yard, what I believe to be a juvenile Thylacine, crept past swiftly under the night light on the track into the old tin mine out the back of the lodge.
The animal was low to the ground and moved rapidly in the 5 or so seconds I saw it, but it was definitely the wrong shape to be a Tiger Quoll as its rump was up higher and so was its forelimb anatomy.
This was a pivotal moment in my life because I had already had a sighting 4 years before in 2010 when I first bought the house. Now, armed with a second sighting, my interest was tweeked way more than it was in 2010.
I wanted to know more. Well, the next few days would prove to give me more when I found what I believe to be a large Marsupial quadra-ped track-way of footprints in a creek only a few km's from home. This was not the same animal that I had seen from the bedroom window though. This animals feet were quite large and the sets of 4 prints had a space between them of over 8ft. Several of the front prints also displayed the classical 5th toe impression that Thylacine's were known to display periodically in the right sort of conditions.
What ever the animal was that left those prints, it was big and in a hurry...
Stripey bum appears 2015.
By the end of 2014, I had purchased 4 trail cameras and started to place them around the place both in South Australia and near where I had my first sighting in Tasmania on the odd chance that I might get lucky and actually get one of these elusive beasts on film. For some unknown reason, I mixed up the sd cards after changing the ones I had in Tasmania. A card I had brought back to South Australia would go unchecked for over 18 months before I discovered the short but highly intriguing video that was captured on there.
I spoke to John Maguire about it, and we decided that we would keep the bit of film as the closing piece of footage for our documentary, "LIVING...the Thylacine dream".
In the very 1st frame of the video you can see the wide, short rounded ear of a Thylacine, ever so briefly, and then all it shows you is its striped bum. The stripes are bold, clear and the video is genuine and untouched.
It is the most frustrating 20 second bit of film I have ever captured in my life...
Needless to say, the skeptics and doubters cried photoshop and CGI on this bit of film... I could never understand why they accused me of faking 1/3 of a Thylacine. Why would I set myself up to create something not quite good enough to prove the Thylacine still exists..?
You will have to ask those people those questions as I have no answers for their illogical processes...
the big fat poo of 2017.
In April of 2017, a good friend wanted to see Tassie and test out his new Land Rover and offered to pay for the trip, if I accompanied him and showed him around Tasmania for a week. It was an offer to good to refuse and it would end up yielding the best bit of physical proof the Thylacine still exists in North-east Tasmania that I have discovered to date.
We went walking one day up a mountain in the North-east and stumbled across the very fresh, still warm scat that was clearly very large, from a carnivore and had no apparent bones in it whatsoever. The other amazing thing was that it was the right colour and size to qualify for being a Thylacine scat, and it was extremely fresh.
I collected it, bagged it, and took it back to South Australia in hope of finding a Laboratory that could test it for me. This proved to be a very difficult and tedious task and after ringing Labs all over Australia, I turned up nobody that could do it or was willing to.
Around the same time, the Centre for ancient DNA at Adelaide University had just completed sequencing the Thylacine's genome from collecting DNA from fossils, this should be a cinch I thought. A budding young scientist from there had just published a paper regarding Devil and Thylacine extinction on the mainland, and was giving a casual talk at a "science in the pub" event put on by the folks from Flinders Uni in Adelaide.
So I went along hoping to learn something and also get a chance to talk this chap personally, and ask if they could be of assistance. To my delight, he was interested, told me to drop it off on his desk at the Uni the following week, and it would cost around $200 to do the test.
So I dropped off the scat the following week on the Monday morning in his office on his desk, labelled and in a brown paper bag so to preserve the DNA as best as possible, it had been frozen for around a month at this stage.
I followed this up with an email and waited to hear back from him. Nothing for a few days, so I rung and left a message. I then didn't hear back anything from him for another week nearly, and finally one day I caught him on the phone and he had had a complete turn around and said," I'm sorry but we can't test your scat because the Lab is just too busy and we can't squeeze it in so you can come and collect your scat from my desk whenever you like"....
By this time the scat was around 5-6 weeks old and was no longer frozen due to my then girlfriend objecting to a bag of giant poo being in her fridge. About 2 months passed and then an MP in Adelaide, Mark Brindle, had a sighting of a Platypus in the Sturt River in the Adelaide Hills and SA Water were testing water samples from the catchment looking for DNA of a Platypus to help prove the animal was indeed not extinct and still hanging on in the Sturt River. The big thing for me was, when I approached them regarding DNA testing this big fat poo, they were so co-operative and nice, they gave me a full tour of the lab, the Thylacine's DNA sequence printed out, and offered to test the scat for free.
The following month that we had to wait for the result, was tense to say the least, but I had and still do have, complete faith in their intention to help me out and be honest with me regarding the results of the test. They were as keen as I was to prove the scat was Thylacine because the Manager of the Lab had invented this sequencing machine and if it proved the Thylacine existed, it would be massive for him and he told me, we would both end up on the cover of Science Monthly....
Much to my surprise, the scat was 93.5% Wombat...But Wombats do cubed grassy herbivorous scats, which this scat clearly was not, so the predator that made the scat had eaten a Wombat was the only logical answer.
There was traces of canid and human DNA from me just breathing on the scat, but there was also another category of <less than 1% other mammal.
I wrote back to the lab and asked for a breakdown of the less than 1% species list...
In their response, there was a hit on "Numbat" DNA...
But how could this be so, there are no Numbats in Tasmania, as they are confined to the mainland and limited to SW Western Australia due to human and feral animal impacts over their former range of South Australia,Victoria and New South Wales.
When I raised this question to the Laboratory, they got back in touch with me very soon afterwards, and asked me to come in for a meeting. It was there in that meeting that they explained the differences between mitochondrial DNA and epidermal DNA and the limitations of their testing equipment due to the two types of DNA.
They also explained to me how Numbats and Thylacines have identical DNA up until around 94% and then one differs and turns into a Thylacine,( in a more complicated dialogue than I am using here ).
Now the size of that scat was quite large when you check the scale in the photo, so if a Numbat, which is a small marsupial that eats termites,( not Wombats ), was to do that scat, it would turn it inside out pushing...
Essentially, the scat was a large fresh Thylacine Scat when we discovered it, and the DNA had broken down due to circumstances and there wasn't quite enough DNA left in the scat at the time of testing to complete the gene sequence.
So there you have it folks, DNA genetic, and photographic and Laboratory backed results that the Thylacine was still roaming the mountains of North-east Tasmania in April 2017 but do you think a single scientist wants to get on board and acknowledge that we found DNA proof.....Of course not.
Nick Mooney is a retired biologist who specialises in raptors. Nick was employed by Parks Tasmania for over 30 years to investigate Thylacine sighting reports. Nick is an Honorary to the Hobart Museum and was asked to examine TAGOA's Trail camera shots and my print casts on behalf of TMAG by Dr Catherine Byrne. Dr Byrne is a moth specialist who is the curator of Mammals at TMAG Museum who I have been corresponding with on several occasions when trying to locate Dr Guilers print casts from Woolnorth Station.
Much debate and censorship seems to prevail around what a Thylacine's foots impression actually looks like. Nick Mooney has a theory on them that is based on examining a taxi-dermied foot of a Thylacine. Nicks theory has never been published or peer reviewed. I disagree with Nicks theory because it is based on poorly preserved feet of stuffed dead animals, rather than living animals feet impressions.
I say censorship because the genuine Thylacine spoor print casts made in 1960 at Woolnorth Station in NW Tasmania, by Dr Eric Guiler himself, are not on display in ANY Museum or institution in Australia despite his entire collection of Thylacine research & evidence being donated to the Hobart Museum at the end of his career. There are 2 small samples on display in Hobart Museum that are allegedly juvenile Thylacine spoor casts from Jane River, but none of the 10 large samples from the photograph below, and, I am yet to have been able to see them despite several emails to get a straight answer from the TMAG Museum in regards to their whereabouts...
Thylacine spoor, 1960 at Woolnorth Station, from "Tasmanian Tiger, a lesson to be learnt", 1998 by Eric Guiler & Phillippe Godard, page 180.
When examining the above photo, several things can be ascertained from the shot.
- The animal is quite large and has left at least 10 possibly 11 print impressions that have been filled with plaster.
- The prints are at least 75-100mm wide and high, more likely 100mm.
- Dr Guiler knew they were Thylacine spoor, cast them, and took them away as evidence.
- The animal is likely cantering along slowly as the sets of prints are close together.
The case of the in-complete collection.
Finding out what exactly happened to Dr Eric Guiler's collection of Thylacine evidence from the field and many decades of research was not an easy task to complete. The only official published info I found was a obituary, ( when he passed away ), that mentioned he had donated his work to the TMAG, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, in Hobart some time after he retired.
After a few emails to the University of Tasmania, his former employer, I eventually got in writing that none of his field materials collected, remained within the University any more, other than a small collection of old films taken from early home made camera traps used in his surveys during the late 70's early 80's and some cards with notes pertaining to the films.
A quick trip down to Hobart and a short appointment in the rare collections section at the University confirmed this in June 2020. The University has virtually none of the collection.
This is where it gets a bit peculiar. None of the prints in the above photo are on display in any Museum or institution anywhere in Tasmania.
Sadly, when the meeting took place in February this year at The Hobart Museum with Dr Byrne and Nick Mooney, the 10 or so prints in question were not made available to me and when I enquired Nick Mooney stated that:
" There are no other Thylacine prints in the collection, just some dog prints Dr Guiller collected "...
Upon further enquiry, I was then told that there was no time to get those out today as well, and that I would have to make another appointment, as both Nick and Dr Byrne had limited time that afternoon and had other commitments. I was allowed to photograph what bits and pieces I was shown for education purposes and for my own research, but the large prints from Woolnorth Station, 1960, were definitely not a part of what I was shown.
The emails between myself, Dr Byrne and one other Museum staff member were very confusing and not what In would call an easy exchange of information.
It was like pulling teeth from a chicken, trying to get a straight answer about where the casts have ended up and who exactly has them...
The only conclusion I could come to was that some time after the collection was donated, someone at the Museum decided that Dr Guiler's casts were not Thylacine, and have re-labelled them as dog but it begs the question why they were not made available when I specifically made the point of wanting to see them to compare them to my own samples.
On the day, I took several plaster casts of my own along to the Museum, with the intention of comparing them to Dr Guiler's so that I could confirm if they were a match to his Woolnorth casts.
Upon examining my casts, Nick Mooney stated that they were too large to be Thylacine and were probably dog. He also told me that many years ago, he had been contacted by, and subsequently went and visited, a farmer in Victoria who had very similar casts from a trackway of prints he found on his property after witnessing what he described as a Thylacoleo carnifex, Marsupial Lion, on his farm.
Nick told me that he had," seen the track-way of prints, examined the plaster casts himself", and found them "interesting" and that my casts looked similar to them. However, when Nicks report was released a week or so later, he stated that my casts were too large for Thylacine, likely dog prints, and that the reason they had such a obvious 5th toe impression, was due to the animal turning at angle on a soft substrate and the dogs "dew" claw making an impression.
Only problem with that theory was that the prints were from a dead straight track-line I discovered with John Maguire in 2016. I showed Nick Mooney several examples of casts on the day.
He agreed that several of them looked like they were made by a similar species of animal due to the obvious 5th digit. One was from South Australia 2016, the other from Tasmania 2020.
The above track-way is from South Australia in 2016 and is the one of the track ways where the large 5 toed prints were cast from. Photo copyright, John Maguire & Neil Waters.
An interesting point of order here is that despite Nick Mooney's opinion of these casts, an International dog show judge with over 60 years experiencing judging every breed of dog there is, has stated that the prints in question are bigger than any known breed of dog and that the 5th toe alignment and size is not canid in origin in any way shape or form and way too big and functional to be considered a dew claw of ANY breed of dog.
The print cast Nick Mooney believes is a dog print because it was "too big" to be a Thylacine, and Pocock's excellent sketch of a freshly deceased Thylaine's front right foot from 1926.
In summary, we have had many examples of these large 5 toed prints that look almost identical in shape and dimensions from QLD, WA, SA, NSW, VIC and Tasmania, all within the last 5 years. So, logic would tell me either we have an unknown large Marsupial quadraped that is extant in every mainland state as well as Tasmania or we have an extremely large dog that has a foot almost identical to a Tasmanian Thylacine's foot, that likes to swim Bass Straight and holiday in Queensland from time to time, and WA and SA and VIC and NSW... AND, it has a 5th toe, that could play honky-tonk piano with the best of them...
Ultimately, we need very clear footage or still shots of a Thylacine and proof of breeding to get the I.U.C.N. interested in reviewing the Thylacine's extinction status.
In February 2021, round 4 of our Trail camera sponsorship program, I was busy retrieving the 56 cameras we had out in the field and going through the thousands of images on the sd cards. It was on Camera 11 that I had the shock and joy of what appears to be a family of Thylacine's moving along a game trail in 3 daytime shots.
I contacted the TMAG Museum in Hobart and asked if they would care to examine them and verify them. Dr Catherine Byrne, who is in charge of the Thylacine collection, suggested Nick Mooney be present and give his opinion of what he thought the pictures were. He kindly gave us a written report of his evaluation of 2 of the photos, and some of my plaster casts,( of what I am certain are Thylacine prints ), about 8 days later. On the day we met up at the storage facility in Hobart, Dr Byrne made some of the Guiler collection of plaster casts available for me to examine,( not all ), plus the Thyla "Brick" with the verified Thylacine print impression in it, from Hobart in the early 1800's. Nick Mooney's report is here:
Plus, there was 2 shots of the Juvenile's face from the night before:
This final shot of the Juvenile's face at night is also suggesting a very small animal due to the scale references available from other animals that were photographed at the location. This animal is clearly not a cat,( due to its muzzle ), a Devil or a Quoll. It is also clearly not a Pademelon Wallaby or Bandicoot.
Paul is the former President of the RSPCA Tasmania, in his report attached above, he gives solid scientific analysis of the photographic evidence and concludes the juvenile animal is not a cat, dog or hopping animal, and definitely a quadra-ped, noting the smooth leathery rear hock being a typical Marsupial trait. He mentioned to me in an interview that he is 80% certain it is likely a Thylacine juvenile but he won't say 100% because it was not "smiling for the camera"...
On top of Pauls report, I also had an International Feline Judge with over 30 years experience judging cats internationally, examine the Juvenile photos and she stated there were 4 features she could see , that were not "cat-like" features she had ever seen.
I also showed the print casts and photos to an International Canine Judge with over 60 years experience judging and examining every known breed of dog in existence.
He categorically ruled out ANY breed he was aware of dog due to the smooth leathery rear foot and the angle it was presenting at in the shot.
Within TAGOA, there was a large percentage of people who thought it looked like a cat.
A News-poll found that around 60% of people thought it was a cat, 19% thought it was a Thylacine Joey, whilst around 9% thought it might be a Pademelon.
These figures suggest at least 30 % of people could see it was a Marsupial and not a cat.
Nick Mooney also acknowledged it was a Marsupial, when he identified it as a Pademelon.
There was also a view that thought it was a cat, but that it was facing the camera with something in it's mouth. Pareidolia is all I can say here because there is no face there, it is the rear end of an animal walking away from the camera.
I appropriately named this adaptation "Cat's arse head", I could vaguely see what they meant if I stared at it long enough, but all I could see was that dead straight tail, smooth leathery hock, stripes, coarse hair, boofy head and long linear quadra-ped body shape, a Thylacine Joey!!
In this zoomed up image you can see the 2nd ear, stripes and the smooth leathery rear hock. Cats rear feet are hairy on the soles and not smooth. It also has it's tail dead straight like a Thylacine. Cats also never hold their tales out straight when walking.
Nick Mooney mentioned in his report on these shots that he was unaware of Thylacine Joey's having coarse hair...Cats certainly don't have coarse hair.
Well, here is a very well taxi-dermied Thylacine Joey from the SA Museum, with very coarse hair.
This shot of what appears to be a very broad head and neck, with short round ears, unlike a Wallaby,(which has long ears), was the best shot from our Trail-cams in Round 5. It also has rather dark coloration around it's eye similar to a Thylacine.
A series of 3 shots of what appears to be a striped tail or pronounced lines along the vertebrates of the tail of a Thylacine. Still, not quite enough. Heads or tails..?
Audio Recordings, What does a Thylacine sound like?
There are several historical references to what sort of noises a Thylacine makes when it is either warning or hunting or communicating with it's young.
There is the typical "Yip", almost sounding like a terrier running yapping in the distance, often associated with a pair hunting and spooking game.
Then there is the coarse dry "cough/bark" they are also known for as a warning.
Andrew Orchard mentioned a grunting/snorting/snarl when one approached him in the dark once in North-east Tasmania.
Regina Mackenzie, Indigenous Woman & Adnyamathanha Traditional owner from the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, described 6 different noises she knew of from both her own encounters in recent years and also ones handed on to her from her ancestors. She can also mimic several of these noises as well and demonstrated them to John Maguire and myself back in 2016.
In 2018, I heard what I know to be the dry cough/bark whilst sitting in my car on sunset in the Kuitpo forest area of the Adelaide hills in South Australia. At first I heard some quieter higher pitched noises that may have been young, then seconds later, one dry cough bark, about 5 seconds later, a 2nd one, and then I knew what I was hearing. I fumbled with my phone to bring up voice recorder and maybe get a recording of it as it was reasonably loud from where I was positioned on the hill. The noise came from within the under-storey of the Stringy-bark forest I was parked near at the time.
The cough/bark sounded a third time and then there was a loud thumping of either a tail or a foot.
I swung my phone out the window and caught a glimpse of a large animal take off but I was too late and it made no further noises. It was almost identical to the noise in the Trudy Richards recording from NW Tasmania from the mid 90's. It was only about 25 feet away....
The next time I heard a sound I am convinced is Thylacine, was in NE Tasmania on Feb 14th 2020. The Yips in the distance this time and at least 3 possibly 4 animals moving through the Valley. I have since heard, and recorded the Yips from at least 3 other locations a total of 5 times in 2020. The first time was in a Pine plantation and moving rapidly across the gully so it was clearly not Sugar Gliders who are not that mobile and do not live in thick young Pine forest plantations. There are Thylacine's in North-east Tasmania to this day, without a doubt.
In 2020 we also received a very unusual sound from Western Australia that was allegedly a female Thylacine calling her young. The witness who recorded the samples claimed to have seen the mother in the driveway on their property with several young, plus another member of the family claimed to have seen a massive male one as when he first saw it he thought it was his pet Bull mastiff dog, but it wasn't... Male Thylacine are known to be larger than the female ones.
Several other witnesses have come forward since the release of these audio recordings and claimed to have heard similar noises in Tasmania and on the mainland as well.
Audio from Vic, Tas, and WA
The third sample of audio on this video is the one claimed to be the female calling her young in the Forests of Nannup, 2020.
More Yipping from NE Tasmania
Once again a bit later in the year, I had the pleasure of getting another solid recording of Thylacine's Yipping in a gully in NE Tasmania.