The last of a species, caught on film

As a kid, I was fascinated by the photos of the extinct quagga that were bolted to the sides of the zebra pen at the Topeka Zoo. I knew about extinction, of course. Dinosaurs were extinct. And I knew that buffalo had been shot by the 1000s a long time ago and might have become extinct, if they hadn't been protected.

But I remember the quagga being a little shocking, nonetheless. Here was an animal, that had been alive recently enough to be photographed—not just drawn, like some imaginary beastie—but which no longer existed. Not even one. Not anywhere. It probably didn't hurt that the quagga looked just different enough for little me to feel it as a loss. It wasn't quite a horse. Not quite a zebra. And I would never see one, except as a photo.

It was a weird, existential sort of feeling, which I felt again while watching this video of a thylacine, also called Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. This animal is actually a marsupial, not directly related to wolves (or big cats). Any similarity you see is purely convergent evolution at work—different species adapting to similar environmental niches. Not surprisingly, like the wild dogs they resemble, thylacines were hunted with abandon in the 19th and 20th centuries, because of the threat they posed to domesticated herd animals. The last confirmed* wild thylacine was killed in 1930. The last captive one died six years after that. That's him, a male sometimes referred to as "Benjamin" in this video, shot in 1933.

Thanks to Waslijn for Submitterating!


*The possibility of living thylacines in the wild is a favorite topic of cryptozoologists. There have 3800 recorded sightings on since 1936. But nothing conclusive.

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