The dingoes have been the biggest land carnivores in Australia, attacking large animals such as kangaroos, as well as wombats, and even lizards and smaller prey
Yet again, perhaps the real disaster for the marsupial wolf came three thousand years ago, with the appearance of its worst enemy: the dingo.
No one knows how they arrived in Australia, but they are true canines, descended from the Asian wolf. Their strength lies in numbers, as they hunt in packs, and give birth to large litters of pups.
The Tasmanian tigers, solitary and less prolific, suffered not only from the competition for the same resources, but were also themselves hunted by hordes of these newly-arrived yellow dogs.
Since then, the dingoes have been the biggest land carnivores in Australia, attacking large animals such as kangaroos, as well as wombats, and even lizards and smaller prey.
When the first sheep were brought to Australia, the dingoes were here, ready to attack. And, of course, this slaughter was also blamed on the Tasmanian tigers, one more supposed crime to add to what was already a long list.
The dingoes are still a problem today – so much so that the largest fence in the world has been built to keep them away from the sheep – 3307 miles of barbed wire!
The great strength of the dingo is the same as that of all wild canines – their ability to adapt to almost anything. The large packs can quickly disperse when necessary, and they then become solitary hunters – like this one. No protein is wasted, and when a dingo finds a dead body, he simply eats it, like any other scavenger.
In a land where every man had a rifle, like Australia at the time of the first colonists, this was a very useful way of adapt.
Apparently, the Tasmanian tigers not only were not scavengers, but what is more, they ate only part of the animals they themselves had hunted, leaving the rest behind.
But, what with the wild dogs, the farmers, and the dingoes, the only place a Tasmanian tiger is safe is here: behind glass in a museum.
At least we still have these old pictures of the last survivors in captivity. A great loss to zoology.
When this specimen died in 1936, the Tasmanian government finally decided to declare it a protected species….but this was the last one.
The Tasmanian tiger was protected and exterminated on one and the same day.
Since then, zoologists from all around the world have tried to find a living example in the isolated jungles of western Tasmania. People claim to have identified the marks of their enormous jaws on the heads of dead sheep, but they remain, for the moment, merely a legend.
So many changes, so many invasions of the land of the marsupials, had disastrous consequences, as we have seen.
Nonetheless, the disappearance of forest areas to make way for open field, the increased diversification of pasture, with the introduction of new types of grass, and the creation of watering holes for the cattle, have led to increases in the population of some animals, such as the wallabies and the kangaroos. Inevitably, with so many kangaroos around, eating the grass, the farmers soon got angry, and went to get their shotguns.
Outside the wildlife reserves, the majority of kangaroos live on private land, where, despite legal protection, it is very difficult to prevent poaching..
Many are now asking why the farmers should kill the kangaroos, in order to breed sheep, which simply add to the world surpluses of wool and meat, when surely the profitable thing to do would be to simply breed kangaroos.
They may look adorable, and they are; but, for a farmer they are simply giant rats; there are too many of them, and they eat the grass intended for the cattle.
And the shotgun is not the only way to kill them.
Modern Australia presents a different threat to the children of Gondwana. Vast plains, straight roads, and excessive speeds.
The black night, the sudden dazzle of headlamps, and the result is there for you to see: more bodies to feed the scavengers.