Last thylacine bit cameraman on buttocks

During the filming of one of the last living thylacines, the camerman was bitten on the buttocks by one.
By David Beniuk/AAP May 8, 2014 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

THE CAMERAMAN WHO took the famous footage of the last captive Tasmanian tiger was bitten on the buttocks while filming.

Biologist David Fleay’s pictures shot at a Hobart zoo in 1933 are known around the world as the haunting last images of an animal nearing extinction.

A Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, known as Benjamin, is seen pacing uncomfortably inside a concrete pen three years before it was to become the last of its species to die in captivity.

But a new exhibition at Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery has shed more light on the shoot.

Last Tasmanian tiger bit cameraman

The museum is displaying witness accounts, remembered by Fleay’s daughter Rosemary, that recall him being bitten after two warning ‘yawns’ from the tiger.

“The animal managed to get behind him and bite him on the buttocks,” curator David Maynard said. “He had fair warning and he got what was coming to him.”

Fleay, who was working under a curtain commonly used by photographers in the early 20th Century, suffered no serious injury.

“Other than his pride,” David said. “Most likely the tiger would have left puncture marks. They have quite large canine teeth.”

Thylacine was misunderstood

The thylacine was a top-level predator but was generally shy towards people.

No deaths by tigers were ever recorded but the story of one attempting to drag away an 11-year-old boy survives.

Aboriginal folklore has stories of babies being taken by thylacines, David said.

“They were persecuted because of their supposed impact on sheep farming but that’s totally overblown,” he said. “It’s more likely it was wild dogs.”

The museum still receives reports of sightings at least monthly but Mr Maynard said there is no credible evidence the animal survives.

They were slow-growing, producing few young, and the last wild tiger was killed in 1930.

“At best they lived in the wild until 1950,” David said. “The last one probably died in the wild alone and unknown.

“The road kill in Tasmania is exceptional – 293,000 animals a year – and not one of them in the last 50 years has been a thylacine.”

The last official Tasmanian tiger died 7 September 1936, at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart.  

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