Image: Victor Prout (possibly)
Unaware of how those in the future may view him, a hunter proudly poses with his kill, a thylacine, in 1869.
Cold, hungry and alone, it shivered in its small enclosure. Taken from its natural environment, where it had been a fearsome and effective hunter, it has spent the last three years of its life as an exhibit, trapped behind wire fencing. It wasn’t even a treasured exhibit. Here it was, locked out of the sleeping area that would have provided some shelter during baking hot days, and left to freeze in the bitter cold at night. So it died: of exposure to the elements and of a deep depression – the animal equivalent, perhaps, of a broken heart.
Such was the tragic end met by the last thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, held in captivity. Its death was not a result of man’s fear or greed – as was the case with many of its species – but simple, cruel neglect. It was the final, saddening event in the unfortunate history of the thylacine – the last link in the chain that led, as far as we know, to the animal’s complete and utter extinction. Today, only bones, stuffed specimens, fossils, and a few photographs and film reels remain of this enigmatic creature; probably the most famous of the 20th century’s extinct animals.