Sunday, 15 March 2015

Exhaust Notes talks to us about tracking Tigers with Toyota

The team over at Exhaust Notes caught up with some CFZers recently to talk about the recent Tasmanian expedition sponsored by Toyota Australia.

Here's a snippet:

Why did Toyota Australia sponsor your trips?

Toyota Australia agreed to sponsor our trips after we approached them with our idea. They thought the premise was exciting and a good fit for their 4WD vehicles; popular in regional and rural Australia. We were attracted to Toyota because of its solid reputation as a manufacturer of high performance off-road vehicles, and their popularity in the bush. It was a perfect match for us really, and meant we were able to do so much more than we had originally planned.

Get the full story over at Exhaust Notes.

On the trail of the Tiger

NSW man Michael Williams is on his eighth Toyota-sponsored trip in 10 years to the State searching for evidence the Tasmanian tiger walks the Apple Isle - 29 years after it was officially declared dead and gone.

The last known thylacine died in captivity on November 7, 1936.

"Initially I wasn't that much interested in the tiger and we did a book called Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers, which is folklore on the big cat mythology on the mainland," Mr Williams said.

"While we were doing that, we started to get Tassie tiger reports and we started to follow that up.

"I initially thought it couldn't exist and the quality of witnesses really surprised me.

"When I'm dealing with multiple witnesses especially on the same event, I just don't think that everyone of them is lying to or hoaxing me.

"When a husband and wife are sitting there and saying to me in 1994, 2004, or whatever, 'we saw three animals cross the road in front of us with a funny head, weird gait and stripes', I think they are telling the truth.

"All up, I have spoken to about 30 to 40 people."

Mr Williams said the last reported sighting he had received was 13 months ago when multiple witnesses allegedly watched a large adult male thylacine cross the road in the North-East.

He said if the carnivorous marsupial was still around, it would most likely be in the North-West or North East.

"The technology that I think will prove they do exist will be 'Joe Tourist' driving around with those crash cameras," Mr Williams said.

"At the moment I am primarily collecting reports and trying to find locations, farms and areas where the highest probability of me finding the tiger is.

"I'm looking for game trails to put cameras on."

Mr Williams said there were five other people in Tasmania searching for evidence and was excited for what may be discovered.

He said the best secondary evidence available was a coloured image of a thylacine's footprint, allegedly shot dead in 1990 near Adamsfield, published in Col Bailey's book.

"The original photo is in colour which means there was an animal existing, after the black and white era, so it was up to 1991 that they were still around, we believe," he said.

"What the museum does is play a subtle game with the truth, they go 'there is no secondary evidence'.

"If you speak to either of the museums when they get scats, they say 'this could be a Tassie tiger'.

"Their question is 'are you going to do DNA for it', and they say they 'don't have the budget'.

"If you go to the museum in Hobart they now use the term 'biological extinction', which is quite a weird argument.

"It means that it has got such a small genetic pool it has very little effect on the local fauna."

Mr Williams said he had been stalled by some Tasmanian private land owners, not wanting him to explore their land for various reasons.

"Eventually, we think it is worth a book - and after finding some really compelling evidence," he said.

"I think we will keep coming back for another 10 years.

"By that stage we will either be going 'yes we proved it' or know we are just deluded."

Mr Williams heads home on March 29 and is asking private land owners and those who believe they know where the animal is to call 0416 303 371.

Read the full story at The Examiner.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Tasmanian tiger trackers return to island for new expedition

An international team of Tasmanian tigers trackers is back in the island state for another Toyota-sponsored expedition to find the fabled creature.

The group of naturalists, headed by Mike Williams, returned last week to search for the thylacine, which was officially declared extinct in the early 1980s.

The last captive thylacine died in Hobart Zoo in 1936.

Joining Mr Williams on his latest six-week search will be zoologists and thylacine hunters from Britain and Denmark.

The expedition is being run by the Centre for Fortean Zoology, based in the UK and Australia, which investigates “mystery animals” considered rare, extinct or undiscovered.

It will be the group’s second expedition after travelling south in October 2013.

But Mr Williams, from New South Wales, has personally been searching for the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times for more than a decade

“If someone said to me when I first started that 10 years on we would still be getting tips — our last one was a year ago — I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said.

“With the increase of people using crash (dashboard-mounted) cameras, we believe a local using one might be a good chance of stumbling across a thylacine while driving.”


The five-person team arrived in the state last week and has already been following up tips and speaking to people who claim they spotted the animal in the state’s north.

They will explore areas around northern Tasmania for about four weeks before shifting their focus to the state’s isolated south-west.

“Tasmania is recognised as one of the most biologically rich places on the planet, so it makes sense that the Tasmanian tiger could survive in remote parts of the state,” Mr Williams said.

“We believe that there is a breeding pack somewhere in Tasmania but we need proof.”

Robert Paddle, who wrote a book on the history and extinction of the thylacine titled The Last Tasmanian Tiger, said finding proof might be impossible.

“I would love to be proved wrong,” he said.

“But there is a definition of extinction and to change that you need a body.”

Have you seen a thylacine? Call Mr Williams on 0416 303 371.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Search combs state for elusive Tasmanian Tiger

Mike Williams and Lars Thomas hit the Tiger trail.

An international team of naturalists from the Centre for Fortean Zoology has returned to Tasmania to search for the Tasmanian Tiger, Thylacinus cynocephalus, in one of the biggest concentrated ongoing searches yet for the elusive animal, which was officially declared extinct in the early 1980s.

Expedition leader Michael Williams said the six-week trip – once again generously sponsored by Toyota Australia - is exploring densely forested areas in the State’s north and south west.

"Tasmania is recognised as one of the most biologically rich places on the planet, so it makes sense that the Tasmanian Tiger could survive in remote parts of the State," Mr Williams said.

"Tasmania is also something of an ark for Australia, acting as a final refuge for many species declared extinct on the mainland, such as the Eastern quoll.

“As on previous trips, we have already collected several compelling accounts of recent sightings of the Tasmanian Tiger. On this trip we're hopeful of finding scats, hair or footage to back up claims this rare marsupial remains active in these areas."

Danish zoologist Lars Thomas has joined this year's expedition, and said the Tasmanian Tiger has long been a source of interest for him.

"The Tasmanian Tiger is possibly one of the most fascinating 'extinct' animals I can think of - for me it's very much an animal of the Victorian era, evoking the frontier times of Australia's convicts, colonists, and early Aboriginal tribes," Mr Thomas said.

"I think it's one of the few supposedly extinct animals on the planet that has the biggest likelihood of surviving."

The team is traversing the difficult terrain in two Toyota 4WD LandCruisers, using sophisticated game cameras, starlight scopes, and dash-cameras to monitor wildlife.

Expedition team members for 2015 include: Michael Williams (NSW/AUS), Lars Thomas (DENMARK), Dr Chris Clark (UK), Rebecca Lang (NSW/AUS), and Tony Healy (ACT/AUS).

Media Contact: Michael Williams on 0416 303 371.

Seen a Tiger? Share your sighting at

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant? makes Top 20

Great news!

The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant? has made Loren Coleman's Top 20 list of best cryptozoology books for 2014.

Cryptomundo recently featured a guest blog post by anthology editor Rebecca Lang:

The last Thylacine in captivity died on September 7, 1936, ironically just two weeks shy of the species receiving protection status. In 1986, 50 years later, it would be declared extinct. By international standards it no longer exists, and is just another marsupial ghost haunting the Australian landscape following European settlement.

While Benjamin is often symbolically referred to as ‘The Last Thylacine’, in all likelihood the species persisted in the Tasmanian wilderness well into the 1930s, possibly until the 1950s. In 1980 then-Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife officer Steven Smith conducted a detailed study of sightings between 1934 and 1980, concluding of the 320 sightings, just under half could be considered good, if inconclusive.

Judging by the thousands of sightings logged by government departments and private research groups since that time, however, it may still roam remote parts of Tasmania...

Thursday, 4 December 2014

New Australian book queries Tasmanian Tiger extinction...

Does the Tasmanian Tiger still roam the island state, parts of the Australian mainland, and the northern land mass of Irian Jaya-Papua New Guinea? 

Despite being hunted to extinction in the early part of the 20th century, the Tasmanian Tiger continues to stalk the imaginations of people the world over. What's more, hundreds of reports of the striped dog-like marsupial with the fearsome gaping jaw are made each year in Australia. 

In The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?, biologists, geneticists, naturalists, and academics explore the evidence for and against the continuing existence of Thylacinus cynocephalus.

Featuring essays by Peter Chapple, Ned Terry, Col Bailey, Bob Paddle, Nick Mooney, Tony Healy, Paul Cropper, Andrew Pask, Malcolm Smith, Gary Opit and Michael Williams.

Monster croc stalks Queensland fishermen

A 6-metre-long "man-eater sized" crocodile has stalked two Queensland fishermen while they sat in a small boat in the Hinchenbrook Channel north of Ingham.

Whitsunday man Andy Thomsen and a friend were fly fishing from their dinghy when the monster croc appeared only 2m away and "scared the s--- out of" them.

The keen angler captured the whole ordeal with a camera strapped to his head to record for his YouTube channel.

"This is a man-eater sized croc and if we had not been watching who knows what it may have done," Mr Thomsen told the Townsville Bulletin.

Over a 50 minute period the carnivorous reptile had followed them for more than 50m and then another 2km before popping up in the water beside them.

"We were sliding down the food chain," Mr Thomsen wrote in the video.

"I've never got that close to one before," he said about the encounter on the weekend.

"If it had have stayed up, I don't know what we would have done."

Despite his terrifyingly close encounter, Mr Thomsen said he would not be giving fishing away any time soon.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Book review: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan

The Science of Monsters by science journalist Matt Kaplan

Review by Mike Williams

It was with some trepidation I initially delved in to this book. Perhaps it was the title 'The Science of Monsters' that was a bit off-putting (cue: slightly patronising tone and allusions to 'frightened, hysterical peasants'). But it turned out to be a really fun read on legendary monsters...and how they might be explained by modern science and the cultures that lived in awe and fear of them.

Did dragons really terrify people?
How did the legends of werewolves and vampires really start?
Could science resurrect dinosaurs? And would you really want a T.Rex living next door?

Kaplan discusses animals that really did exist, such as the fierce Eurasian cave lion, which was about 25 per cent bigger than today's lions, and then elegantly segues to giant European boars and the 2004  Alabama 'Hogzilla' which, when dug up, suddenly shrank in dimensions.

And he makes a thorough job of sifting through folklore, history and literature for clues to the origins of monsters. With references to everything from King Kong and giant squids to demons and vampires (and more than a few nods to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other icons of popular culture), it's sure to interest most readers.

Grounded in facts that would one day bear the fruit of fiction, The Science of Monsters is all about humans making sense of the world around them, even if it means putting fangs, fur and fear into the equation when it comes time to grapple with the great unknown.

The last word must go to Kaplan: "People have always looked to the horizon and feared that which they did not understand…"

If you like history, fables, with a dose of real science, then you will love this book.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Book review: A Gift From the Snake That Bit Him

A Gift From the Snake That Bit Him: Adventures of an Australian Reptile Man by Neville Burns

Review by Mike Williams

Neville Burns, of, is one of Australia's most famous herpetologists.

After years of being prodded by his friends, Neville has finally released his much anticipated memoir detailing his life-long interest in, and the early days of, reptile collecting in Australia.

Combine the weird sense of Australian humour, a complete disregard for his own safety and a genuine love and passion for reptiles, and you end up with this great book.

His early travels up and down the coast of Australia are fascinating as well as his encounters with all sorts of 'crazy' characters, the kinds of people you could only meet in the Antipodes.

One of the genuine good guys in this field who holds no airs or graces, Neville has always been the first to give fellow enthusiasts his sought-after advice and time.

Even if you don't know the difference between a Death Adder and a Taipan, you will still find the book an enjoyable collection of stories about these fascinating animals.

And you might actual learn a thing or two, especially why you should never 'borrow' a young crocodile when owed money!

Of course you have to buy the book to find out what happened next.

The book is available through

CFZ Australia's Mike Williams caught up with Neville this week to talk all things herpetological.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Mystery animal captured on thermal camera - what is it?

Now here's something interesting.

This game camera footage was shot by Wayne Knight in rural Victoria.

The mystery creature with felid-like movements was captured on a thermal camera. We guesstimate the distance at about 400 metres.

If you think you know what this animal is, please contact us at


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