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dc.contributor.authorPaddle, Robert N
dc.description.abstractThe thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus), with a recent distribution throughout Australian and New Guinea, became extinct when the last known specimen died in Hobart Zoo on 7/9/1936. Popular and scientific perceptions of the predatory behaviour of the species that preceded its extinction are considered. There appears to be little observational evidence to support either the more fantastic aspects of popular mythology - the thylacine as vampire and man-eater - or the more prosaic aspects of scientific authority - the thylacine as sheep killer - that led to the species' deliberate destruction, most notably through the government bounty scheme. Despite specific Federal and State government committees, supposedly designed to protect Australia's fauna, the species failed to obtain any adequate protection, and local government insensitivity resulted in the premature death of the last specimen in captivity. Post-extinction changes have taken place in scientific constructions of the thylacines' behaviour, often based upon blindly accepted oral history recollections of the species, untempered by a recognition that any observation of a twentieth-century thylacine was of a stressed individual from a relict population heading rapidly towards extinction, unlikely or unable to display normal social behaviour. Scientists have also moved, after the event, in a "blame-the-victim" approach, to distance themselves from accepting significant responsibility for the process of extinction, castigating the thylacine for inadequate adaptation and inherent inefficiency. The extinction of the thylacine illustrates how easily indisputable scientific knowledge may be marginalised and ignored, and species driven to extinction, by powerful economic and political interest groups within the community, when scientists lack the courage and commitment for direct political action. Regrettably, the lesson from the extinction of the thylacine has yet to be learned.
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dc.subjectRare animals
dc.titleChanging scientific perceptions of the Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
dc.typePhD thesis
melbourne.affiliation.departmentSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
melbourne.contributor.authorPaddle, Robert N
melbourne.accessrightsOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required

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