Tasmanian Tiger supporters make resurrection bid

It was a genius move to call the dog-like animal Thylacine a Tasmanian Tiger as it captured imaginations worldwide when learnt a Tiger was about to become extinct

The last Tasmanian Thylacine perished in 1936 in its Zoo enclosure and while this more dog-like animal than Tiger has been termed extinct there are many that lauder its return through genetic rebirthing – Image: Colossal Biosciences

Early settlers to Tasmania became obsessed with wiping out the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) once they formed a view it was eating too many of their birthed lambs.

With a vengeance that only a convict dragged from their English homeland and made to endure a miserable voyage into a place of punishment, they found so unforgiving could muster. It was to become the setting for the revengeful demise of anything that crossed their path.

This was a predicament not one convict had experienced before. Filled at night with blood-curdling screams of Tasmanian Devils scurrying for food, and by the next day laden with droppings of animals they never wished to encounter, along with one of the most primitive aboriginal populations trying to eke out an existence in this harsh unforgiving environment.

The isolation of Tasmania and the mentally scarred population that settled there in 1803 formed a mixture of revenge for the violence they had suffered into a manifestation of savage intent that could only be quelled by bloodletting.

Tasmania was to become a battleground of the most fearful meeting in history of ignorance and untempered violence. A survival test of the innocent in an encounter with the most vengeful.

In just a short period, on the evolution chart, early Tasmanian settlers wiped the Tasmanian Tiger from the face of the earth.

This pelt taken from a Tasmanian Tiger over 100 years ago gives a clear picture of the straw-like colour that quickly allowed hunters to identify the animal and as a result It is estimated that 3,500 Thylacines were killed by hunters between 1830 and the 1920s with the rest dying from constant harassment and starvation until by 1936 just one lone Thylacine was left in a Zoo enclosure

As time passed and settler rage had lessened to an extent, with memories fading as to the destructive meeting of lambs and Tigers, a certain reminiscence set in.

Not from early landholders that put convict malice to its ultimate test, but from landed gentry that pondered on the fact this small state once had its very own somewhat unique Tiger.

But by the time of the prospect of mankind and animals co-habituating it was too late for the Tasmanian Tiger, as it had been for the full-blood aboriginal population.

The only live evidence for many that the Tasmanian Tiger ever existed is on grainy film taken from an enclosure in a Zoo. In that film is the last known living Thylacine.

And even after its inevitable demise, and with many unsubstantiated sightings later of other examples of the species, not one other Tasmanian Tiger has been verified as living. They are all gone.

But such has been the mystery and trauma surrounding the loss of this unique animal, moves are afoot to turn back the pages of history and resurrect the Thylacine.

That task is heartily being taken on by Colossal Biosciences, who describe themselves as a genetic engineering and de-extinction company. They have formed the Tasmania Thylacine Advisory Committee with the ultimate aim of rebirthing the Tasmanian Tiger.

Led by Tasmanian Mayor Michele Dracoulis the committee is expected to provide a crucial public body for the discussion and develop and disseminate a pathway to the rewilding of the Thylacine.

The smart marketers arrived far too late as by 7 September 1936 only two months after the species was granted protected status, the last known Thylacine died from exposure at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart Tas – but since then this more dog-like animal than Tiger captured imaginations worldwide as it became an extinct species

More commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger, the Thylacine had more the appearance of a wild dog than something compared to an African or Indian Tiger. The animal was barely the size of a medium-sized dog, quite slim with an elongated bulge leading to its tail.

It was the rusty stripes on its wheat-coloured fur that gave this keystone species the tiger moniker. Thylacine was once native across Australia, including Tasmania and New Guinea.

In 2022 Colossal announced a bold plan to de-extinct and return the Thylacine to its native habitat and last resting place in Tasmania. It was welcome news for a collaboration consisting of the local government, aboriginal representatives, industry leaders and the public at large.

Outlining just how the project will progress to a live Thylacine, Colossal CEO Ben Lamm had this to say, “We are excited to work with this incredible local committee on the next steps of the project

“In a joint effort Mayor Dracoulis, business and educational leader James Groom, aboriginal activist Peter Rowe and all the members are helping to ensure we have a complete picture of how reintroduction can support the efforts of the Tasmanian community. From biodiversity improvements to economic opportunities, we want this to help invigorate a community I’ve come to know and love,” Ben Lamm concluded.

While there appears not a lot left to work with Colossal Biosciences claims its genetic engineering will be enough to rebirth the Tasmanian Tiger and has formed an energetic and devoted group called the Tasmania Thylacine Advisory Committee to achieve their ultimate aim

“I’m invested in ensuring the best future for Tasmania, which is why I wanted to helm the Tasmania Thylacine Advisory Committee,” said Mayor Michelle Dracoulis, chairwoman of the Colossal Tasmania Thylacine Advisory Committee.

It was cold and desolate for first responders to Tasmania living in ramshackle huts plied with mud between the rough-sawn logs to keep out the wind and when Farmers offered to pay a bounty for a dead Thylacine in 1830 and then went on to convince the Tasmanian Government in 1888 to take over and pay a small ransom at the time of £1 for a dead full-grown Thylacine and 10 shillings for a Thylacine pup – the fate of Thylacines had been decided

“Culturally, the Thylacine is more than an extinct animal on our island. It is part of our identity and lives strongly in our folklore and imagination. Bringing back the Thylacine is an important step in ensuring biodiversity and safeguarding Tasmania for future generations. Its restoration will contribute to much-needed healing in our land which has a troubled past but is home to a people that have hopes for a brighter future,” Mayor Michelle Dracoulis added.

“I look forward to talking to our Aboriginal groups to inform the members of this exciting project. The Thylacine has been a cultural icon of Aboriginal groups throughout Australia for thousands of years and is featured in our ancient rock art plus it is my family totem,” shared Peter Rowe, Aboriginal Advocate, Derwent Valley Council Indigenous Advisor and Lawyer. “The Thylacine was an apex predator wiped out by man; from its loss, the environment has suffered. Our people work to maintain nature’s balance as part of our duty to care for the Earth.”

“I have spent my career working to help Tasmania prosper – socially, commercially and culturally. Joining the Tasmania Thylacine Advisory Committee is an opportunity for me to continue to support our home state and help shape this globally significant and vitally important work,” said James Groom, Senior Tasmanian lawyer and Director.

The TTA will meet quarterly to discuss updates to the project and plans to share information regularly with the broader community. For more information on the TTA, visit Colossal’s website where information will be routinely updated with advances in scientific research, project progress and a question and comment input form for community discussion.

Tasmania Thylacine Advisory Committee members include:

  • Mayor Michelle Dracoulis of the Derwent Valley Council
  • Mayor Loueen Triffitt, Tasmanian Aboriginal (Pakana) Ambassador & Cultural Educator and the Mayor of the Central Highlands Council
  • James Groom, principal of Groom Kennedy Lawyers and Advisors and Deputy Chancellor of the University of Tasmania
  • Mia Lindgrin, Associate Dean of Research Performance for Community Consultation and Impact, University of Tasmania
  • Sam Bradley, CEO of the Derwent Experience
  • Todd Babiak, CEO of Brand Tasmania
  • Alex Heroyas, Chief Executive Officer of Destination Southern Tasmania
  • Peter Rowe, Tasmanian Aboriginal Advocate and proud Trawlwoolway man
  • Greg Irons, Director of Bonorong Sanctuary
  • Michael Smith, President of the Derwent Valley and Central Highlands Tourism Association
  • Kennedy Kurwaisimba, Coordinator Forest Products – Planning at Sustainable Timber Tasmania
  • Murray Antill, University of Tasmania School of Creative Arts & Media
The staff at Colossal certainly know how to tug at heart strings of the public with their plan to resurrect the Tasmanian Tiger already gazumped by their bold plan to bring the Dodo bird back to life – fantasies straight off the pages of children’s books – shown in the background here with Dr. Beth Shapiro, Ph.D. (Lead Paleogeneticist and Colossal Scientific Advisory Board Member) and Ben Lamm Colossal Co-Founder and CEO ­ Image: Colossal Biosciences

About Colossal Biosciences

Colossal was founded by emerging technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and world-renowned geneticist and serial biotech entrepreneur George Church, Ph.D. and is the first to apply CRISPR technology for species de-extinction.

Colossal creates innovative technologies for species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. Colossal is accepting humanity’s duty to restore Earth to a healthier state, while also solving for the future economies and biological necessities of the human condition through cutting-edge science and technologies. To follow along, go to: www.colossal.com

Since launching in September 2021, Colossal has raised $225 million in total funding. Colossal will leverage this latest infusion of capital to continue to advance genetic engineering and pioneer new revolutionary software, wetware and hardware solutions, all of which have applications to de-extinction, conservation and human healthcare.

As part of its Series B, Colossal has also announced the launch of its Avian Genomics Group, which will pursue the de-extinction of the iconic Dodo, a bird species that was wiped out of its native ecosystem, Mauritius, as a direct result of human settlement and ecosystem competition in 1662. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world’s bird population has declined by more than 3 billion in the last 50 years. The IUCN Red List also now categorises more than 400 bird species as either extinct, extinct in the wild, or critically endangered. Colossal is on a mission to reverse these staggering statistics through genetic rescue techniques and its de-extinction toolkit.

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