This Week in Animal History: September 7

While Matt and his family “hunkered down” for Hurricane Irene, the rest of the Animal News Team has been on assignment. Kristin has been walking around, glaring at cartoon chickens that love fried chicken. Meanwhile, I have been diligently working on a second edition of Animal History: The Pop-up Book and doing google image searches for the babe Matt interviewed at the zoo.

Speaking of zoos:

This Week in Animal History

On September 7, 1936, the last Tasmanian tiger in captivity died at the Hobart Zoo. The largest carnivorous marsupial of modern times, the Tasmanian tiger was an interesting little predator. However, the Tasmanian tiger’s demise as a species was a long time coming. For quite a while, the Tassie tiger was the largest predator in Australia. But some 2,000 years ago, dingos started taking over Australia and eventually drove the tigers off the mainland. Limited to the island of Tasmania, the tigers were soon in a bad way due to the arrival of Europeans, their dogs and a viral disease (although it is not clear that the Europeans brought the virus with them.)

By the time conservation efforts were started in the early 1900’s, the Tasmanian tiger was all but finished. Apparently, breeding programs at zoos were unsuccessful or nonexistent and the wild population was already in such decline that there was scarcely any chance of a rebound in the population. The employees of the Hobart Zoo, less diligent and less caring than the lovely people at the Maryland Zoo, left the very last captive Tasmanian tiger locked out of its shelter. Left exposed to the elements, the very last Tasmanian tiger died.

Sometimes history is sad.

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