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.

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