Thylacine: Animal Dreaming


The most important thing to know about the thylacine is that they are almost certainly exinct.  Also going by the names marsupial wolf and tasmanian tiger, the last known thylacine died in 1936 in a zoo.

They were large carnivorous marsupials which were in competition with the tasmanian devil.  Bigger than the devil, these ghosts are often compared to the wolves of the northern hemisphere in terms of appearance, behaviour and the similar niche they fill in the ecosystem.  This association would be one factor leading to their extinction. They pursued their prey, kangaroos, to exhaustion and found themselves up against the dingo which also eats roos.  In addition to competition for food, the dingoes also posed an immediate threat as it is believed they hunted the thylacine.

The thylacine was a scapegoat, barring the brunt of anything which went wrong on farms. Because of this, they were feared, loathed and hunted.  A relentless persecution was carried out and a bounty was placed on their heads.  This destruction of an animal which had once thrived echoes the severe impact the British had on Australia.

The story of attempts to protect the thylacine are no cheerier. They were finally declared to be a protected species on the same day the last one died, leaving us only with books and a snippet of black and white film.  This sad footage tells a tale of a lonely animal, the last of its kind, a pressure that none of us can know.

Sightings of these mysterious striped beasts continue to be reported in a similar way to those of bigfoot.  Sketchy film and ambiguous accounts fuel conspiracy theories and a cult of believers insist that the elusive animal still lives.  In the context of this card, my focus is less on whether they really are still alive and more about what this belief asks us to think about.  Do we see what we want to see?  Do we see what we expect to see?  How is confirmation bias screwing with our ideas?  What does it say about us when we project the thylacine onto other animals?  Where else are we experiencing a case of mistaken identity?

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