A new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology this month claims that humans, and humans alone, are responsible for wiping out the Tasmanian Tiger.
The AFP reports that researchers have long believed that the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacinus cynocephalus, was brought to extinction through various factors like hunting and disease.
Thomas Prowse, of Australia’s University of Adelaide, said:
“Many people, however, believe that bounty hunting alone could not have driven the thylacine extinct and therefore claim that an unknown disease epidemic must have been responsible.”
But a new study suggests that the animal did not go extinct because of some unknown epidemic. Prowse and his team developed a mathematical model to look at the effects that humans had on the Tasmanian tiger. The team discovered that hunting, coupled with habitat loss and smaller numbers of prey, could have driven the animal to extinction.
“The new model simulated the directs effects of bounty hunting and habitat loss and, importantly, also considered the indirect effects of a reduction in the thylacine’s prey (kangaroos and wallabies) due to human harvesting and competition from millions of introduced sheep … We showed that the negative impacts of European settlement were powerful enough that, even without any disease epidemic, the species couldn’t escape extinction.”
Live Science notes that bounties were put on the Tasmanian tiger during the 19th century because farmer’s believed that the animal preyed on sheep and poultry. It would later be shown that the Tasmanian tiger had a weak jaw and couldn’t have hunted sheep.
Still, by the early 1900s the animal was practically extinct. By 1936, the last known Tasmania tiger died at a zoo.