What Factors Are Blamed For The Extinction Of The Tasmanian Tiger?

Indiscriminate hunting is believed to be the biggest factor that led to the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger or the thylacine.

Thylacine, also known as Tasmanian wolf or Tasmanian tiger, which is native to New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania, is believed to have become extinct around the 20th century. Evidence suggests that the Tasmanian tiger was a shy, nocturnal creature which resembled a medium-to-large sized dog except for its abdominal-pouch and stiff tail. The Thylacine was the last extant member of Thylacinidae family. Some of the factors which are blamed for the annihilation of the Tasmanian tiger include:

Competition from Invasive Dingoes

The extinction of the Thylacines has been attributed to the introduction of invasive dingoes in Australia about 4,000 years ago. The dingoes spread quickly throughout the continent, but not in Tasmania. These two species were believed to have the same feeding patterns, and since the dingoes were smarter competitors than the Tasmania tigers, direct competition for food in the continent resulted in the extinction of the Thylacine. Doubt still exists over this factor since these two species had different hunting patterns. The dingoes hunted during the day while the Thylacines preyed at night. Moreover, the Thylacines were more versatile when it came to their diets as compared to the omnivorous dingoes.

Increasing Human Populations

Another possibility is the human population in Australia changed their behaviors over 4,000 years ago. The gathering and hunting strategies of indigenous populations became more efficient and elaborate thus reducing their nomadic natures. As they settled, their population is believed to have increased to over three times between 2,000 BCE and when the Europeans arrived in Australia. Therefore this resulted in them competing for food with the already existing predators. The adoption of dingoes as their hunting companions increased the pressure on the Thylacine. Human beings were the primary contributors to the extinction of this species in the mainland Australia. In Tasmania, Thylacines survived until the 1930s when the first European settlement was set up in Tasmania.

Introduction of the Bounty Schemes

When the European established their first settlement in Tasmania, the Thylacines were in the north-midland, northwestern, and northeastern parts of Tasmania. Although the Thylacines were rarely sighted, people associated them with the increased attacks on their sheep, and this resulted in people hunting them. The Van Diemen's Land Company introduced numerous Thylacine bounties in Tasmania in an attempt to control the population of the Tasmanian tiger from the early 1830s. The government of Tasmania paid about £1 per head of a dead adult Tasmanian tiger and 10 shillings for the pups from the early 1830s to 1909. Although the Tasmanian government is believed to have paid about 2,184 bounties, the locals killed more Thylacines. The relentless efforts of the bounty hunters and the farmers are the leading causes of their extinction.

Spread of Disease

Most of the captured Tasmanian Tigers from the 1830s to 1930s were affected by a distemper-like illness which killed them. Therefore it is believed that the Thylacines were prone to this disease which contributed to their extinction. Some of the casually collected records and bounty analyses suggested that this illness was the factor which contributed to their annihilation.

More in Environment