This is to discuss the historical evidence of what led to the extinction of the thylacine ( Tasmanian tiger) and how mankind killed off an entire species.
A creature known as the Thylacine or commonly known to people as the Tasmanian tiger, roamed this world nearly sixty years ago. As of today this creature is extinct due to human imperialism and colonization, and this pattern is still continuing in modern times. Why is this important at all and why should we care about the extinction of a random creature? It’s because mankind is realizing that we are the apex predator in this world and in the distant future many animals you know of today will only be seen in picture books.
This creature, despite its other name, is not a tiger or a part of the Felidae family at all. It was given the name by European colonizers because the stripes on its back resembled that of a tiger. Brilliant, right? It actually shares more similar traits with the Canidae family which basically is basically the dog like family, however it’s actually a part of the, now extinct, thylacinidae family because it was a marsupial. While it was still alive the thylacine and the water possum were the only two marsupials where male and females both had pouches.
To begin to explain why the Europeans completely obliterated this known species we also have to tell you that they also committed a mass genocide on the native people of Tasmanian. You know what they say: to call something yours you have to get rid of the person it belongs to first.
When European settlers arrived to the island known as Tasmania, it was already inhabited by people. The idea the Europeans had was to claim the island for the British empire, but the people there wanted nothing to do with them. Eventually, over time war began to erupt between the aboriginal people and the British settlers. The aboriginal people’s weapons were inferior to the guns the British had brought. Sadly when the conflict known as the Black War was over, between 600 to 900 aboriginals were murdered, and Tasmanian’s beautiful and unique ecosystem was destroyed.
After the settlers claimed the Island they moved the last of the Tasmanian’s people off the Island. They began building their towns, farming livestock, and fighting off the animals who had roamed the land for years. Between the diseases they brought, invasive species of animals that they let free, and the infrastructure they began to due to the island the last strong hold for the Thylacine species began to collapse. Eventually the thylacine became a major threat to farmers because they were believed to be eating the livestock. Then the hunting of the thylacine had begun until there were no more to hunt.
Did They Try to Help?
While hunting the thylacine became normal fun for the settlers, others saw them as profit. They began capturing the animals and sending them to zoos in Europe. If the long journey across the sea didn’t kill them, the depression they faced with now being caged animals surely did them in. For the enjoyment of Europeans, they were put on display away from the only home they had left. Many environmentalists sought justice and the release of the thylacine and eventually the Australian government gave in. However only two months after the order the last known thylacine named Benjamin died on September 7th, 1936 at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart Tasmania. The people were too late and mankind witnessed the extinction of an entire species at their own hands.
After my historical research I’ve concluded through various sources that imperialism and colonialism is to blame for the extinction of the thylacine. Also, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, it was believed that even if humans did not hunt the thylacine to extinction due to the arrival of the Europeans and the diseases they brought they would have died off regardless. In Errol Fuller’s book “Lost Animals: extinction and…”, he mentions that with the coming of Europeans the thylacines were already eliminated in Australia and New Guinea and that they were restricted to the island of Tasmanian, and then when the Europeans came there the cycle began again.
This event falls under environmental history. Even in modern times, animals who have been on this planet much longer than mankind are facing extinction due to the changes in the world. They are usually just a byproduct of some type of development in human culture such as destroying forests to build towns, or hunting due to their popularity. It is very important to be mindful of the destruction that colonialism and imperialism does to the environment
Fuller, Errol. “ Lost animals: extinction and the photographic record”. Princeton University Press, 2014
Wills, Matthew. “ What The War of the Worlds Had to Do with Tasmania”. December 2018
Hill, E.F. “Imperialism in Australia” Chapter 3, April 1975
Burrell, Sue. Eldridge, Mark. “ Dingo”. The Australian Museum, July 2022 ( last updated).https://australian.museum/learn/animals/mammals/dingo/
“Arrival of the dingo”, National Museum Australia
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Tasmanian Aboriginal People”, Britannica, July 1998
“The Thylacine in Captivity”, C. Campbell’s Natural Worlds. Zoos, Circuses and menageries internationally page 1.
“Thylacines”, University College London,
Gannon, Megan. “Humans Alone Wiped Out Tasmanian Tiger, Study says”. LiveScience, January 2013. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/humans-alone-wiped-out-tiger/