SYDNEY – Australian researchers investigating the extinction of the country’s Tasmanian Tiger pinned the fault solely on humans Thursday, saying they have debunked a long-held theory that disease was to blame.
The last known tiger, or thylacine, died in Hobart Zoo in September 1936, and although there have been numerous unconfirmed sightings over the years, the species was officially declared extinct in 1986. When European settlers arrived in the southern island state of Tasmania in 1803, the thylacine — a shy, carnivorous marsupial that resembled a long, large dog with a striped coat and wolflike head — was widespread.
Their final extinction has long been linked to a distemperlike disease that tore through the remaining tigers, but a University of Adelaide team said it had proven disease was not a central cause.
“We showed that the negative impacts of European settlement were powerful enough that, even without any disease epidemic, the species couldn’t escape extinction,” said Thomas Prowse, lead researcher of the study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.