People Think They've Spotted A Tasmanian Tiger Alive In Mainland Australia
The Tasmanian tiger was declared extinct in 1986.
Footage shot in February in the Adelaide Hills purports to show a thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, walking behind garbage bins in a suburban street. Tasmanian tigers have been extinct for 30 years.
"It is bizarre," video editor John Maguire told BuzzFeed News. "I'm not qualified in that way, but it's definitely not a cat, because it has a snout, and it's not a dog because it has a long tail. That leaves a fox, and if it's a fox then it has mange. But the tail is tapered."
Maguire has been working with the Thylacine Awareness Group and its founder, Neil Waters, since February, when the footage was sent to Waters by an Adelaide Hills resident. Together, they've been creating short documentary-style videos that show the findings they have made in the group's collective effort to rediscover the thylacine, which was declared extinct in 1986.
Maguire says the creature has been spotted twice in the past 12 months, and that it has become common understanding in the area that the animal, whatever it is, may be a sub-species of the Tasmanian tiger.
He cites hundreds of sightings from all across Australia's mainland.
"If you don't believe in all these people then what are you saying about them?" he said. "Do you think they're crazy? Do you think they're seeing things? I can't call this many people crazy."
Waters, who stars in the Thylacine Awareness Group's first video and is responsible for much of the group's research and knowledge of the animal, says he witnessed a thylacine in 2010 when one followed him through Tasmanian bush for 20 minutes.
"I've found some very convincing [foot]prints as well," he said.
The thylacine was hunted to extinction in the early 1900s, as settler farmers saw the animal as a threat to their livestock. It also struggled to compete with the dingo for food. The last known thylacine, Benjamin, died in captivity 80 years ago, a consequence of the lack of understanding of the tiger's diet, says Waters.
"We believe they predominantly eat blood-filled organs of anything they kill," he said. "They'll eat the hearts, the kidneys, they might slit the throat and drink the blood."
When asked about the thylacine's apparent timidness, Waters says it's down to how the species has been treated by humans.
"History has shown that, in particular white fellas, haven't treated the animal with respect. So I guess they're smart and have learned to steer clear of the white fellas."
Waters says he has shown his findings to researchers at the Adelaide Museum as well as an amateur palaeontologist.
"We've got some reasonable kinda brains around what we're doing," he says.
But Australian Museum mammalogist Dr Sandy Inglby told BuzzFeed News the footage was too poor to properly analyse and that she believed the tail was too furry to be of a thylacine.
Waters would like to see the government invest more money into finding the thylacine, saying there are "so many encounters" that go uninvestigated.
"It's in the 'too hard' basket, and I don't think [the government] knows exactly how widespread the phenomenon is," says Waters. "We're not experts, but we're willing to put our reputation on the line to prove that we're right."
Waters says there will be more footage uploaded in the coming weeks showing further proof that the thylacine is alive and well and living in mainland Australia. The next video, set to be released in the fortnight, has "30 seconds of clear footage".