Adamsfield thylacine - questions and answers


The definitive summary regarding the Adamsfield Thylacine of 1990 is given in the article Adamsfield Thylacine - further evidence.

Just prior to publishing that article, I posted a summary of events to social media with the caption "Proof the Tasmanian Tiger made it to 1990 at least". That post was an absolute bare minimum rundown of events and I encouraged readers to ask as many questions as they wanted, to challenge my interpretation of events. The post was shared and questions were asked across multiple locations - both publicly and privately.

This article draws together most of the questions asked and I provide my response to each. (Any questions I have excluded are more fully answered in the "further evidence" article, in any case.)

Adamsfield "Photo B" showing a photo of the Adamsfield foot (uppermost) lying beneath a taxidermy Thylacine foot (lower). Source photo: Adrian Richardson. Enhancements: WLMD.

Questions and answers

If they had photos (plural) of a dead thylacine, why would a photo of a foot be the only evidence that's appeared?

Short answer

Rusty never wanted the photos to become public.

What's occurred is that Rusty began to show a set of photographs privately to Col Bailey. Col began to take photographs and then Rusty has taken the pile away and made it clear that trust was broken. Col had taken two photographs of two photos shown to him by Rusty. It seems to me the whole event occurred so quickly that it was not yet made clear to Col that those first two photos in the pile were actually photographs of the Museum taxidermy, and that Col has probably made the assumption that the feet which dominate those photos belonged to the Adamsfield Thylacine. As a result, Col later spoke publicly about the photos and stated they showed the Adamsfield Thylacine's feet.

In reality, however, one of those photos shows the taxidermy's foot lying on another photograph - it is that photograph in the background which I contest is an authentic photograph of the Adamsfield Thylacine.

Longer answer

The obvious next question is "why didn't Rusty want the photos to become public?"

We can only speculate as to Rusty's motives and reasoning but if the Thylacine had been shot - as seems to be the case to me - then producing those photographs would be highly socially and politically charged for many reasons. It is far simpler to keep the account private.

Separate to this, Rusty is on record many times as stating that during the course of his work he has come across evidence the Thylacine persists, on several occasions (eg. footprints) but he doesn't want for people to go tramping through the bush looking for them and interfering with them. I personally believe he was motivated to ensure the Thylacine remained as protected as possible, and that protection partly comes through not revealing details of their persistence or whereabouts. Remember - he was responding to the story after it had been broken by Col first. Before this, Rusty had kept the information strictly secret.

Why haven't photos of other parts of the animal been published?

Rusty never wanted the photos to become public.

See also the question above - "If they had photos (plural) of a dead thylacine, why would a photo of a foot be the only evidence that's appeared?"

Is it really THAT easy to gain access to specimens in the Vic museum?


Well, absolutely it was, in 1990.

There is another video on YouTube (link is in my second article), published by the Australian Rare Fauna Research Association (ARFRA) - a group of researchers based in Victoria. It was filmed in Museum Victoria and shows the organisation's founder, Peter Chappel, left completely unattended, alone, in a room in Museum Victoria with a WHOLE HEAP of Thylacine specimens on tables throughout the room.

He walks to each table and talks about each specimen. He picks up many specimens and handles them by hand, unsupervised. He does wear gloves - in contrast with what's seen in Adamsfield Photos A & B - but nevertheless, it is clear that amateur researchers have been able to gain access to Thylacine material at Museum Victoria for the purposes of personal research. That level of access and handling has certainly happened - the ARFRA video (of 24 minutes' duration) is proof, and the ARFRA video was taken at exactly the same museum.

Surely, even if you'd just shot the animal, the benefits of 'going public' would far outweigh the negatives?

Any answer to this question can only be speculative.

At a big picture level - who can predict what any individual person will ever do?

Our courts are full of cases where people have carried out inexplicable activities.

I can only add that the subject of the rediscovery of the Thylacine is both emotionally and politically charged. Many people are hugely passionate about this question - of whether to publicise any information in the event that proof turned up that the Thylacine has persisted.

If I were to fully address all possible themes that I have come across in trying to answer this question, it would be an incredibly long answer - and every part of it would be speculative argument and allegation. One large and common theme is the threat that the rediscovery of the Thylacine would pose to primary industries such as forestry and mining. Another more context-specific consideration is that the animal was a protected species, listed as extinct, yet shot dead - in a National Park, no less, where shooting is illegal. Another speculative theme is that there may be persons at varying levels of governance with vested interests in keeping information about the Thylacine private.

As I said - any answer will be speculative - unless first-hand witnesses come forward to provide testimonial account.

But this remains true: regardless of motivation, the fact that Rusty kept the information private does not detract from the reality that one photo leaked, and we now have enough information to interpret and understand what that photo tells us, which, I argue, is that a Thylacine was shot dead near Adamsfield in 1990.

Why didn't they take decent photos?

We don't know how decent the photos were - especially because we only have later generation reproductions of only one photo (a screen capture, of a TV broadcast, of a filmed documentary, where they filmed a printout, of a composite of the two photographs, taken at the museum, one of which was a photograph of the original Adamsfield photograph with the taxidermy!)

That's a pretty poor chain of reproductions to be able to try and discern details for analysis! Nevertheless, the features of the foot are, in my view, completely sufficient to establish the species.

Another point that's relevant here - the testimony on file (see the article) is that the animal was shot in the head. I can imagine if this is true, the corpse may have looked very ugly. It is conceivable that no photo was taken of the head because the head was destroyed.

Likewise, it is conceivable that no photo of the entire body was taken (which is what Rusty stated).

All I can say with confidence is that one photo has leaked and made it into the public domain.

Why the hell wouldn't they take the corpse to the nearest official place (dump it on the front door mat and run if they were worried about punishment)?

Any answer here is again speculative.

I answer this in an earlier question also ("Surely, even if you'd just shot the animal, the benefits of 'going public' would far outweigh the negatives?").

In a nutshell, it's impossible to predict every possible motive every possible person may have at any given point in time. There are recurring themes that come up in any discussion around this and they include a few key points - rediscovering the Thylacine could threaten primary industries such as forestry and mining, meaning there could be many people motivated to ensure no such discovery is confirmed; it is illegal to hunt in National Parks, meaning the shooter could fear prosecution on that matter, or on the matter of a protected species - an international icon listed as extinct, no less - being shot dead.

Another relevant point here is the insular nature of some communities within Tasmania. We are talking about towns with populations far smaller than 1,000 people - in the 1990s. In some of these towns the vast majority of people depend on those primary industries. There may be social pressures to conform to a community standard. If you have not watched the film The Hunter, in my opinion it brilliantly captures these social dynamics - dynamics I have experienced myself, within some areas of Tasmania.

What do we know about the shooter?

Firstly, Col Bailey, who first broke the story, never named a shooter or shooters but he did write that "so the story goes", the animal was shot.

Subsequently, Stan Morely - who goes by the name "Rusty" - publicly claimed to be responsible for the photos, but disagreed that the animal was shot, saying he found it already deceased.

In my most recent article, Adrian Richardson - who goes by the name "Richo" - has stated that Rusty stated plainly to him that he shot the Thylacine - and provided an account of the events that happened.

This leaves us in the position where the public record, according to Rusty, is that he found an animal already deceased, but there are allegations that the animal he photographed had been shot.

In either case, Col never identified any person he believed involved with the incident. Rusty identified himself as being responsible for the photographs and Richo's testimony agrees with Rusty on that point.

As such, I suggest the following points are not in dispute:

  • Rusty took photographs of a Thylacine in 1990
  • And that animal was freshly dead

That is to say - even though some parties involved (namely Rusty and Col) had a falling out of trust (see the article) and contested one aspect of the story - how the animal died - all parties are in agreement of there having been a freshly dead Thylacine photographed in 1990.

To answer the question, then, what do we know about the shooter? Rusty was a Vietnam Vet who was trained by indigenous peoples in the art of tracking (stated to me by Rusty directly). His role, as I understand it, within the Australian military was as a tracker. He used the name "Tracker Scout" on his Facebook profile.

For very many years he had occupancy (if not even ownership) of the two remaining huts that stand just 1 or 2 kms away from the former township of Adamsfield. These two huts are the only remaining structures relating to Adamsfield. The former township, which in its heyday had a population of circa 1,000 people, has been reduced to ruins and rubble. You can view my photos of the area in my articles. The huts are variously known as "Clark's Huts" after Norm Clark, who built them in the 1940s, or "Morley's Hut" after the fact Rusty was the sole occupant for very many years. As noted by the Mountain Huts Preservation Society, maintenance of the huts was "handed over" to the society in 2015, ie. by Rusty. He also told me first-hand that he'd made the decision to hand the huts over.

Whilst having occupancy of these huts, Rusty was employed by National Parks to track, trap, hunt and kill cats in the national park - that is, for a decade or more his paid profession was to be a shooter in the national park.

As I wrote in my last article, Rusty conveyed to me directly an account of how he survived for six weeks in the southwest wilderness with nothing more than a hunting knife - he had trekked from the Adamsfield area all the way across to the west coast and back, by choice. Rusty was clearly a very able bushman and tracker.

He is spoken of in a very brief obituary post on social media with phrases such as "so much respect for that man", "helped me out so many times", "will never ever forget you" and "he unearthed many stories about our family history".

I write more about Rusty in the article.

Why did Rusty shoot the tiger?

The circumstances surrounding the actual shooting are described in the article.

The following additional response is speculative on my part: It is my belief that under those circumstances it was an instinctive shot, made in an instant. I acknowledge this contrasts with explicit statements made by Rusty during his interview with TRU to the contrary (where he was speaking hypothetically that one would not make such an instinctive shot if one were in such a position).

What do we know about the camera being used?

I don't know anything about the camera.


Published 1 May 2023.

Citing this article

Rehberg, C. (2023). Adamsfield thylacine - questions and answers, Accessed: date,