Once the world's largest marsupial predator, the doglike Tasmanian tiger ( Thylacinus cynocephalus) ranged across Australia and as far north as New Guinea. After humans introduced dingoes to the area 4,000 years ago, the misnamed "tiger" was driven to extinction everywhere except the island of Tasmania. With the arrival of European settlers there in the 1800s, however, its days became numbered. Unsubstantiated tales of its blood-thirst and its unnaturally savage attacks on sheep led to the creation of "extermination societies" and ultimately to the introduction of a law in 1886 that mandated the destruction of the species. Hunted indiscriminately for fifty years, Tasmanian tigers were granted a reprieve in 1936, when the government was persuaded to protect the species. But it was too late: the last specimen died in a Hobart zoo two months later.
In Tasmanian Tiger, David Owen tells the tragic story of the thylacine, from its evolutionary origins and its physical and behavioral characteristics to its ill-fated encounter with European civilization and the ongoing fascination with the "Tassie Tiger" as a potent symbol of wildlife conservation. Elegantly written and full of interesting facts and first-hand stories from those who saw the animal in the wild, Tasmanian Tiger offers a compelling account of how fear and ignorance doomed an entire species over the course of a century. And in recounting numerous recent sightings of the thylacine in Tasmania, Owen explores the power that this once-despised creature continues to hold on the imagination today. Indeed, as described in this book, serious efforts are being undertaken to bring back the Tasmanian tiger through cloning, a controversial project that raises a number of ethical questions for scientists and conservationists everywhere. For both those familiar with the thylacine and those discovering this remarkable animal for the first time, Tasmanian Tiger is a poignant cautionary tale of human folly and the fragility of the natural world.
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David Owen is the author of nine novels and the editor of the Australian literary journal Island. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania.Review:
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding some of the attitudes that influence conservation issues, learning about unusual animals, and finding out how we might do a better job for our wildlife in the future. Before our grandchildren actually share the world with Tasmanian tigers, many tough questions will have to be asked and answered.(Whit Gibbons Tuscaloosa News)
Documents the Tasmanian tiger from an evolutionary as well as a historical perspective to scrub away some of the mysticism surrounding the animal and shore up its legacy with facts.(Science News)
Drawing on newspapers, government reports, ships' logs, and interviews with Tasmanians old enough to have seen a thylacine, Owen tells the tale and seeks to explain this rush towards extinction.(Times Literary Supplement)
Why would anyone want to read a book about the thylacine, an extinct Australian marsupial carnivore? Because it is one of the most fascinating and mysterious creatures that ever lived; so poorly understood that it was driven to extinction by people who had no idea what it was really like.(Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean and The Extinction Scenario)
An enchanting book that reveals all we know about this little known animal. David Owen sweeps us along with his wonderful writing as we meet a truly incredible mammal that became the centerpiece in an ecological tragedy. Anyone interested in nature and the conservation of the diversity of life should read this story.(John Seidensticker, Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and author of Tigers)
The thylacine, or as it is commonly known, the Tasmanian tiger, is not just an extinct animal. This book tells how it has also become a mythical story about humanity's relentless arrogance in the face of a world of wonder, the tragic fate of which is a warning for us all.(Richard Flanagan, author of Gould's Book of Fish and Death of a River Guide)
This is the message that clearly runs throughout David Owen's absorbing chronicle of the once and future thylacine, recounting in fact-filled but never dry or wordy detail about the discovery and destruction of this remarkable species, and documenting the amazingly sparse extent of knowledge concerning it that was gleaned before it was lost to science, and the world, almost 70 years ago.(Fortean Times)
Very well done.(Wildlife Activist)
The book is well worth acquiring, especially for readers seeking a broad overview of thylacines.(Aleta Quinn and Don E. Wilson Journal of Mammology)
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