YOUR GRANDCHILDREN GROW UP WITH TASMANIAN TIGERS?
Tasmanian tigers and mountain lions have in common? For one thing, a century
ago each species was the largest and most widespread modern-day predator
native to its continent. Although mountain lions (aka cougars or panthers)
still persist in parts of North America, Tasmanian tigers (aka thylacines
or Tasmanian wolves) are presumably now extinct. Virtually everything
known about their biology and history are in the book "Tasmanian
Tiger: The Tragic Tale of How the World Lost Its Most Mysterious Predator"
by David Owen (2003, Johns Hopkins University Press).
The last captive died in the Hobart Zoo on September 6, 1936. But like North America's ivory-billed woodpecker that some ornithologists hold out hope of finding in remote forests, some people think Tasmanian tigers still exist in the wild interior of Tasmania. Every year sightings are reported, but never verified. Between 1936 and 1980, 320 reports of Tasmanian tigers in the wild were made, many of which, mainly before the 1950s, were believed to be authentic.
tigers had a large, dog-like head and a body with more than a dozen distinct
stripes like a tiger. Adults reached the size of a Dalmatian dog. But
as with many wildlife species today, only minimal information was documented
about their ecology and behavior. According to one source females had
four babies. Tasmanian tigers were no threat to humans themselves, and
probably were not even a serious problem for livestock. But like so many
native U.S. predators, the species was constantly getting a bad rap and
being persecuted. Tasmanian tigers were declared to be aggressive based
on an incident where one ran past a man who broke his walking stick over
the animal's back. The Tasmanian tiger turned and growled at the man,
and then ran into the forest. Sounds to me like the man started the fight,
which makes him the aggressive one.
Would cloning be an ethically appropriate move to make for Tasmanian tigers? What would we do with a mini-population of the predatory marsupial? Keep them in zoos? Put them in the fast-disappearing Tasmanian forests? Release them on Maria Island, a sanctuary formerly established for the species off the east coast of Tasmania? What if a cloned endangered species were later perceived to have become a nuisance?
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 native wildlife in the
future. Before our grandchildren actually share the world with Tasmanian
tigers, many tough questions will have to be asked and answered.