A story of lasts

Two tales of extinction from Tasmania.

Earlier in May, I read about the efforts to clone the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) an animal whose last known representative died in captivity in 1936 (see video at BBC).

I studied about the Tasmanian Tiger when I wrote a four-part story about cryptozoology, extinct and legandary animals, and the giant squid in Tale of Two Monsters. According to an article in ENN:

It took humans only some 70 years to make the Tasmanian tiger extinct, as farmers in the 1800s began shooting, poisoning, gassing, and trapping the animal, blaming it for attacking sheep. The last known Tasmanian tiger died in 1936, and it was officially declared extinct in 1986.

Today, Allan pointed to this sad tale of the return of pieces of the body of Truganinni, the woman who is considered “the last Tasmanian Aborigine”.(Descendants of the early aborigines have survived, though none are full-blooded.)

The British Royal College of Surgeons pilfered the pieces long ago for study, and only just discovered them again in January. Since the Tasmanian aborigines believe their bodies should lie in rest near their home, the pieces of Truganinni are being returned for ceremonial burial.

Accounts about the deliberate extermination of the Tasmanian aborigine bear a remarkable resemblance to those taken to exterminate the Tasmanian Tigers. According to Jared Diamond:

Tactics for hunting down Tasmanians included riding out on horseback to shoot them, setting out steel traps to catch them, and putting out poison flour where they might find and eat it. Sheperds cut off the penis of aboriginal men, to watch the men run a few yards before dying.

The final efforts to eliminate the aborigines occurred through that most efficient of destructive agents – religion. When only about 300 aborigines still lived, George Augustus Robinson a self styled preacher convinced the remnants to join him in a sanctuary created for them on Flinders Island. There he would convert them over to Christianity and “modern ways” while he protected them from further destruction. Unfortunately, the Island became a prison rather than a refuge, and Robinson helped complete the work started so enthusiastically by the other settlers.

Note: In the interest of disclosing possible bias, I should point out that here in the United States, we share much of the same efficiency as our Australian brethren when it comes to killing or displacing natives – human and otherwise.

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