THYLACINE - The Case in Defence

Chapter 3

THE WAR

When a crewman aboard Abel Jansen Tasman’s ship focused his telescope on two ghostly peaks emerging from the mist, Tasmania would never be the same again. The year was 1642, the era of European exploration. The voyages of discovery developed into a competition between France and Britain. Who would make their claim first?

The quest for colonies became a ravenous thirst. Land in distant parts meant precious resources... copper, gold, timber, crops, and slaves. The grab for territory became a battle of national egos... at the expense of indigenous man and animal alike. The superiority of white culture was an unquestionable fact, or so the Europeans thought.

At the same time, farmlands in the ‘mother countries’ were emptying, factories were burgeoning, and displaced country folk were pouring into towns. However, instead of finding riches, many found degradation, poverty, hopelessness and crime. "Get rid of the criminal class" became a catch-cry. When Britain’s prisons became overcrowded, murderers and petty thieves alike were herded onto prison hulks anchored in the Thames.

When her prison ships could hold no more, Britain’s quest for distant lands became even more urgent. Where better to send her unwanted classes to a life of punishment and misery than an undeveloped, godforsaken land on the other side of the world? Britain had already claimed sovereignty in the Great South Land. Now to plant the Union Jack in a land further south - Tasmania!

And so to Tasmania came Lieutenant George Bowen, a collection of miserable convicts, a handful of soldiers... and the British flag!

    Decimation to the Tasmanian Aborigine!

    Despoliation to the Thylacine!

    Land cleared. Prisons built. Crops planted. Settlement spread.

    Land granted. Free settlers arrived. Sheep and cattle came, too. Houses built.

    Dogs arrived. Forests pushed back. Roads constructed. Semaphores established.

    Stage coaches appeared. Prisoners escaped. Desperadoes ranged. Viscousness reigned.

    Authority versus lawlessness. Escapee versus the law. White against Black...

    The Thylacine declared ‘vermin’ and...

WAR DECLARED!

Farms spread across the more accessible areas of the island. The domestic animal of choice was sheep... meat for the local populace and wool for the textile mills of Mother England. Sheep, cattle, and dogs replaced kangaroo, wallaby, and Thylacine. Both hunted and hunter were usurped by cloven hooves, guns and dogs.

Some farm dogs escaped and formed wild packs, while some Thylacine lingered on the edges of the newly cleared land. Whenever a farmer woke to a scene of slaughtered sheep, he cried "Tiger!"... not "dog!" With absolute certainty of his absolute right, he gathered together a posse. His orders were ‘Hunt the animal! Shoot the animal! Drive the animal out!’ Possible cause of slaughter by dogs rarely entered his mind.

Frenzy against the Thylacine grew. ‘Vicious!’ they called it! ’Cowardly!’ ‘Treacherous!’

They had the absolute right to pass such judgments... or so they thought!

As the frenzy grew, so did the posses - both in numbers and in intent.

KILL IT! ERADICATE IT! EXTERMINATE IT!

In 1888, the graziers’ cry became the official cry with the establishment of the Tasmanian Government Thylacine Bounty Scheme. With the promise of a reward for every carcass presented, graziers, farmhands - and whoever else cared to - joined forces. So, the hunt for the Thylacine became a 21-year quest for genocide.

‘SUCCESS!’ THEY CRIED AS THE ANIMAL DISAPPEARED FROM THE SCENE!

When the last miserable captive Thylacine died in 1936, there was no doubt in the collective mind of most Tasmanians:

ONCE MORE MAN HAD PROVEN HIS SUPERIORITY OVER BEAST!

BUT IS HE?...

IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE A HUNTED NATIVE ANIMAL CAN OUTSMART MAN!

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