Eyewitness accounts of large, dog-like animals in state’s far north spur scientific hunt for thylacines, thought to have died out in 1936
Tuesday 28 March 2017 03.57 BST Last modified on Wednesday 29 March 2017 01.05 BST
“Plausible” possible sightings of a Tasmanian tiger in northern Queensland have prompted scientists to undertake a search for the species thought to have died out more than 80 years ago.
The last thylacine is thought to have died in Hobart zoo in 1936, and it is widely believed to have become extinct on mainland Australia at least 2,000 years ago.
But sightings of large, dog-like animals that are neither dingoes nor foxes have persisted over the decades, despite widespread scepticism.
Recent eyewitness accounts of potential thylacines in far north Queensland have spurred scientists from James Cook University to launch a search for the animal long considered extinct.
Professor Bill Laurance said he had spoken at length to two people about animals they had seen in Cape York peninsula that could potentially be thylacines, and that they had given plausible and detailed descriptions.
One was a long-time employee of the Queensland National Parks Service and the other was a frequent camper in the north of the state.
Laurance said all the potential sightings to date had been at night. “In one case four animals were observed at close range – about 20 feet away – with a spotlight.”
Descriptions of their eyes, size, shape and behaviour were inconsistent with known attributes of other large species in north Queensland such as dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs.
The sightings were at two separate locations on Cape York peninsula, but the specifics were being kept confidential, said Laurance. “Everything is being handled with strict confidence.”