Cape Otway Thylacine
Cape Otway thylacine body, 1973, Victoria
On 6 August 2012 the Casey Weekly Cranbourne newspaper published an article that talked about Tasmanian tiger sightings in Victoria. The full article is reproduced below, and a link to the source is here: http://bit.ly/SfP5vq
That article prompted two further accounts from readers and the newspaper posted a second article which is reproduced below, and a link to it is here: http://bit.ly/RJy2EA
One account of particular note concerns Mr David Chinn who, according to the article, saw a dead Tasmanian tiger at Cape Otway in 1973 and buried it.
I managed to contact Mr Chinn today and we spoke on the phone for about ten minutes. Apparently he's been receiving a lot of calls from a lot of newspapers since the Cranbourne article. A key difference he pointed out to what the article says is that he does not know if the body was buried.
The account he gave was that he had arrived in Australia 2 and a half years prior, and had spent that time working at the Cape Otway Lightstation as a grounds keeper, through until 1974. His main duty was cutting crass and occasionally doing odd jobs such as painting.
Mr Chinn his boss Mr Ernie Jones, who was fond of his home brew beer, was the one to discover the Tasmanian tiger. They kept a pet rabbit and chickens at the lightstation. One morning they discovered the rabbit dead in the garden and Ernie found the thylacine inside the chook pen. He said the thylacine probably got in by climbing under the wire mesh but when Mr Jones arrived it tried frantically to escape. Nevertheless Mr Jones took his gun and shot the animal.
Mr Jones then brought the dead animal into the workplace to show Mr Chinn. Mr Chinn said he didn't know what the animal was but when he saw the photograph accompanying the first newspaper article this month he recognised it. He said he was certain it had dark stripes from mid body to its rump - just as reported in the second article.
According to Mr Chinn, Mr Jones said he would dispose of the body and Mr Chinn is not sure how the animal was disposed of - he reasoned it might have been buried, or just as easily thrown into the sea. He says that in 1974 he contacted the relevant government department to report the case but he felt like they considered him a nutcase, so he decided to leave his report at that.
When I asked Mr Chinn if he had ever seen a photograph of a spotted-tailed quoll he said he didn't know that animal. I then asked about the size of the animal he saw and he said it was the size of a large greyhound dog ruling out, in my opinion, a spotted-tailed quoll.
He mentioned the animal was "pretty healthy" and I asked whether it might have been a dog with poor fur condition that made it appear as if it was striped. He repeated again that the animal was "pretty healthy", that it "wasn't skin and bones" and said its fur condition was good.
I asked what colour it was and he said "tan beige" and that the stripes were "dark". I let him know that thylacines have been variously reported as choclatey-brown through grey like an Eastern grey kangaroo through to tan and beige and I asked whether he noticed if it was male or female. He replied that he didn't take note and when I mentioned thylacines having a pouch he said that he didn't know that.
Finally, Mr Chinn reported that Mr Jones is now deceased.
Casey Weekly Cranbourne articles
Tasmanian Tiger: The ghost of a chance
06 Aug, 2012 12:00 AM
The Tasmanian tiger was declared officially extinct when the last zoo animal died in Hobart in 1936. But over the years there have been several possible sightings on the outskirts of Cranbourne. CATHERINE WATSON reports.
AN image of a Tasmanian tiger sticks in many people's minds. Pictured in the Hobart Zoo in 1936, the lone animal stares warily out of her cage, the last remnant of a doomed species. She died soon after the photo was taken.
The Tasmanian tiger haunts the Australian imagination as no other animal does. Perhaps it's because Australians watched it become extinct before their eyes and only realised when it was gone what they had lost.
Less than 30 years earlier, the Tasmanian government had been paying out a bounty on tigers. It wasn't until 1936 that it was gazetted as a protected species.
Even in the 1950s, 15 or 20 years after the animal had been declared nationally extinct, reports of possible sightings prompted carloads of men with dogs and guns to set out on tiger hunts. The hunts were always unsuccessful, and a question mark remains on whether the tiger survives on the mainland.
Have you seen an animal that could be a Tasmanian tiger? Let us know on 9238 7649 or post a comment below this story.
Independent researcher Michael Moss has no doubt it does. Moss, who grew up in Cranbourne South, says there have been possible sightings around Cranbourne going back at least a few decades. Reports have come from Cranbourne South near the Royal Botanic Gardens, Devon Meadows, Tooradin and Crib Point.
In June 2009, the Cranbourne Journal (predecessor of the Casey Weekly) ran an article on a possible sighting of a Tasmanian tiger crossing Chevron Avenue, Cranbourne South, in 2001. Another Cranbourne resident claimed to have seen a tiger in Tooradin in 2000.
Moss never saw a tiger while he was a boy. In fact, he didn't become interested until about 1995. He agrees the animal is almost certainly extinct in Tasmania but believes it could still exist on the mainland. "It's a theory I can't prove. I think it will be found again. I filmed one in an open paddock near Foster in November 1998, the first and only time I have seen one."
The video footage, which is available on Youtube, shows an animal with an unusual gait heading up a hillside. Moss says the animal was videoed from a distance so there is some conjecture about it but as far as he is concerned it's a Tasmanian tiger.
He also has a theory about how it got there. Between 1910 and 1941, he says, the Commonwealth introduced 23 threatened native species to range in the Wilsons Promontory National Park. They included wombats, quolls, kangaroos, wallabies, fish and bandicoots.
Tasmanian tigers aren't included on the list but Moss says they would have been prime candidates. "They would have kept it quiet or farmers would have gone in and shot the animals."
But does it survive on the mainland? The Australian Rare Fauna Research Association has about 3800 mainland sightings of an animal answering the description of the tiger in its files.
ARFRA secretary Dorothy Williams says a quick search brings up reports from Crib Point (1973), Warneet (1997) and Tooradin (2000).
While this is no hot spot for sightings, there are clusters of sightings not far away in the Dandenongs to the north, part of the east coast of
Western Port, and south from Wonthaggi, among many more scattered Gippsland sightings.
"It's always possible that some unexpected event can send an animal away from its usual territory."
She says the accounts differ from one eyewitness to another, but two details are constant:
vertical stripes on the animal's back and its peculiar gait. People often report that the animal they saw ran clumsily, and nothing like a dog or fox.
What the association doesn't have yet is a photograph, the remains of a tiger from the mainland or - best of all - a live animal.
DNA tests of such an animal would solve the final mystery: whether mainland tigers - if they exist - are related to Tasmanian tigers, whether they are remnants of a separated mainland population or whether they are a different but similar animal.
The association is careful in its use of language when talking about possible sighting. It does not claim that the tiger exists, only that it has too many credible reports to ignore the possibility.
In 1979, there was a much reported report of a Tasmanian tiger by fencing workers at Lang Lang early one morning. This is one of the few daytime reports, it was seen by several people and - very importantly - they hadn't been drinking.
Moss says it's not surprising a tiger has not been captured or definitively photographed.
"It is a transient animal - it would just be passing through." He believes new technology is changing the equation. He has half a dozen infrared cameras that he rotates around various sites in Victoria and many more people will install dash cameras as the price comes down.
"Over the coming years, someone will be driving along and press the shutter."
To report possible sightings, leave a report on the Australian Rare Fauna Research Association website at afra.org or call Michael Moss on 0434904944.
DISTINGUISHING features of the thylacine:
■ Stripes across the rump and lower tail (in most individuals).
■ The thickness of the tail at the rump.
■ The low hock (heel).
■ Size: ranges from the size of a fox to a large German shepherd, depending on age and sex.
■ Colour: sandy to dark brown with darker
■ Gait: unusual, slow and clumsy to very fast, sometimes bounding or sitting up.
-Australian Rare Fauna Research Association
Tasmanian tiger: Glimpses of a beast
BY CATHERINE WATSON
13 Aug, 2012 04:00 AM
LAST week's Weekly story about possible sightings of Tasmanian tigers in the Cranbourne area has prompted two interesting responses.
A 42-year-old Cranbourne resident contacted researcher Michael Moss to say he and an adult friend saw a many-striped animal bigger than a German shepherd dog while driving towards Cranbourne about 11pm on Monday, July 24.
Mr Moss said the driver told him they were on the South Gippsland Highway about five kilometres from the Warneet roundabout when the animal looked up and then crossed the road so close they almost hit it.
"The car had 150-watt spotlights and both witnesses claim to have got a good look at the animal. The tail was thinner at the bottom and thicker at the top.
"He is adamant it is the same animal as the photo in your article."
Mr Moss said this was the ninth sighting he had received in the area bounded by the South Gippsland Highway, North Road, Cranbourne-Frankston Road and Dandenong-Hastings Road since the 1970s.
Hampton Park reader David Chinn rang the Weekly to say he saw a dead Tasmanian tiger in 1973 when he was a lighthouse keeper at Cape Otway.
"My colleague saw an animal in the chicken run and shot it. He dragged it out to the watchroom so I could see it.
"I knew what it was - it looked exactly like the photo in your story, with stripes from the middle of his back down to his mid-legs."
Mr Chinn said they buried the animal. He said he told several people about the animal over the years but no one ever believed him.
"Whenever I told someone about it they thought I was crazy."
This article was first published as a note on the WLMD Facebook page on 14 Aug 2012 under the heading "Cape Otway thylacine body, 1973, Victoria". It was migrated to the WLMD website on 10 Feb 2021 with minor formatting changes.