Timid Devils and Ghost Tigers

2004, Nature  -   12 Comments
Ratings: 8.82/10 from 28 users.

The ancient Greeks deduced that in the Southern Hemisphere there must be enormous unexplored landmasses, a mysterious place full of gold, with an ideal climate and docile natives. Spanish and Portuguese explorers searched in vain for this lost continent which by this time everyone was calling "Terra Australis Incognita."

When the first white colonists arrived there they found a completely different world from the one they'd imagined. Covered in an impenetrable jungle and inhabited by strange creatures. A land forgotten by time, a world which had been left behind, lost in the mists of evolution, retaining much of the original life of the long since vanished super-continent Gondwana. Nothing was familiar to them but no one doubted that this was a land of natural splendors, an explosion of life from the depths of time.

This is a story of a land caught in its own bubble which was suddenly invaded by outsiders. Two of the creatures of this land were to suffer different but similar fates. Both would've become living or extinct legends. Tasmania is an island which lies to the south of the Australian continent from which it became definitively separated around 13 million years ago. This isolation occurred after thousands of years of shared evolution, meaning that Tasmania has to this day conserved relics of the primeval universal forest which once stretched right around the world some 250 million years ago.

At that time all dry land in the southern hemisphere formed an enormous compact mass - the super-continent called Gondwana. The proof of this can be found along the coasts which ripped apart from each other still preserve common geological features. Gondwana included the present lands of Australia, the Antarctic, Africa, South America and India. The breakup of the super-continent brought great changes. Titanic forces created new seas, moving continents and cooling the climate. Australia along with Tasmania had drifted east of the Antarctic. Despite the enormous distances now the edges reveal that these coasts and those of South America are parts of the same mass.

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12 Comments / User Reviews

  1. jackmax

    The Tasmanian devil numbers were controlled by food availability,
    competition with other devils and quolls, loss of habitat. But since the mid 90's the greatest threat to devils across Tasmania is the Devils Facial Tumour Decease (DFTD).

    Devils Facial Tumour Decease is now having a devastating effect on the Tasmanian devil population was first noticed in the north-east of Tasmania in the mid-1990s but has become more prevalent in recent times in other areas of the State. Both state and federal governments have joined forces to commence the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. To date I think there are two North American zoos and three New Zealand zoos that have been accepted at this stage. I think this is just the start to this program with a more extensive program to include around 10 zoos in North America, and 10 in Europe.

    I think the San Diego zoo received four devils around October this year with Albuquerque Biopark ready for arrival early next year if my memory serves me correctly.

  2. Annie Stone

    I thought this was going to be about tigers! Ghost tigers or white tigers, but there's hardly any talk about tigers.

    1. docoman

      The doco is about Australian animals, the Tasmanian Tiger, Thylacine, and the Tasmanian Devil. The Thylacine is a marsupial (mammal that raises young in a pouch), so it's not really a 'Tiger' as such, there are no 'cats' native to Australia. The Thylacine was blamed (wrongly in most cases it seems now) for killing sheep, and was hunted to extinction most probably. Hence the 'ghost' reference.

  3. elizabeth wesley

    Fabulous film, so wonderful to see the unique animals and terrain of this beautiful land. Too bad man comes, wherever he goes there is irreparable change to the detriment of the natural habitat and life that existed before his arrival.

    1. Harry Nutzack

      are you aware that without that "irreparable change to the detriment of the natural habitat and life that existed before his arrival" there would most likely be NO elizabeth wesley, and undoubtedly there would be no computer from which you post, nor the internet you post on? "destroyer of the environment as it existed before" is pretty much the darwinian niche we exploit so efficiently that it has allowed us to thrive, and survive to this level of civilization. right, wrong, or indifferent, it IS, indeed, "what we do", and has been since our first generations of flint knappers. hand wringing and lamentation while enjoying the fruits of that exploitation is pretty much the ultimate hypocrisy.

    2. DrJack37

      Thanks for the lecture on the inevitable waste and self-destruction that is mankind's destiny. But it's too bad that you cannot imagine any relation between man and nature except such a complete and destructive lack of respect. There's nothing cosmic or universal about it. It's the mindset of a society that began in genocidal greed and will likely perish the same way by its own insane self-righteous hand. And good riddance.

    3. docoman

      That's a weird post DrJack, especially after reading your 'up-talk' post you did. Read like you started low and ended high-pitched. ;)
      You had a go at Harry, but then said more or less the same thing as he did, except criticise him for being realistic instead of imaginative. And you also speak as if you're not a part of that 'society' you mention. What did you compose your post on? How did you get that on the internet? If both of us look in the mirror, we'll both see a part of the problem. No imagination needed, just self honesty, like what Harry displayed. It seems to me like the only thing you've imagined on here is you're not a part of the problem as well.

    4. Callum Donovan

      "Man" comes? lol no. White people came and killed, raped, enslaved everything in sight as usual. "Man" had lived there for thousand of years (aborigines)

      You gotta love the white supremacist mindset, that shows us white man "discovered" the world. Even though there was already populations everywhere he went lol

    5. jackmax

      It would appear that your knowledge of Australian history is distorted.

      Whilst the people who colonised Tasmania more than 45,000 years ago were the first humans to reach Tasmania they were not the last. At least several more waves of migrants, probably six or seven, would reach Tasmania before it was finally cut off from the mainland by the rising sea levels
      about 10,000 years ago. Each wave of new arrivals would have been linguistically, culturally and physically different to the preceding group. It is worth wondering if each new wave of migrants were seen as invaders by those who were already settled in Tasmania.

      There pitched battles between the newcomers and those who were already resident in Tasmania.

      Although there was conflict between the aborigines and the european settlers, the first historic record of conflict between the Tasmanian Aborigines and Europeans was in 1772 when Marion du Fresne landed on the east coast. It appears that there was a misunderstanding over the lighting of a fire on the beach; after lighting the fire the French party was
      attacked by the Aborigines, the French respond with gun fire. The end result was at least one of the Tasmanians was killed while several French were wounded.

      That being said the biggest killer of the aborigines not only in Tasmania, but Australia as a whole was introduced diseases from european settlement.

    6. docoman

      Elizabeth's point was wherever man goes there is irreparable change to the detriment of the habitat as opposed to before man got there.
      You make it a race thing. Why? Granted, the Tassie Tiger is an example of whites killing off a species that survived the earlier arrivals of non-white man. But everywhere, for everything, it's only whites that did this?
      You really think that? That the burning off by the Australian Aborigines didn't help change woodlands into grasslands? For the purpose of encouraging kangaroo's and other food animals to multiply, at the detriment and change to pre-mans arrival habitats.

      Changing woodlands into grasslands doesn't qualify as changing the natural habitats why exactly? Or are you making a human problem into only a 'white problem' as it seems?
      Man has left his imprint on Australia since we first set foot on the continent, regardless of race as you suggest it all comes down to.
      Your post implies the first arrivals (note it's plural) of man in Australia had no effect. The fossil record doesn't agree with you. The history shown in the Cave Paintings done by the ancient Australian Aborigines don't agree with you either. Seen any mega fauna in Australia lately have you? The only place you'll find them now is in cave paintings, or as fossils. Was that white man's fault too?
      How about Easter Island, was that white's doing as well?

      A couple things for you to contemplate regarding Australia;
      explain the Dingo, how it got to Australia, when, and what effects its had.
      Why did the other species of Thylacine go extinct on the mainland, well before white man arrived? And the many more species that have become extinct since man first came to Australia. (note, man, not just 'White man')

      Or is your expressed view also ignorant and racist as is the white supremacist mind-set you mention?
      Skin colour doesn't dictate whether we change and in doing so destroy some things in our environment, that is absurd. Man tends to do this, not just one particular race. Don't be what it seems you despise mate, a racist, that's a 2 way street that's a dead end both ways.

    7. Steve Winston

      I don't know where to begin what's wrong with your comments. It's a myth that Aboriginals were particularity good at protecting the environment. They changed the very nature of Australia with their so-called 'fire management'... countless plants and animals became extinct due to their practices, rainforests dissapeared. Their only advantage in the environmental stakes was a lack of technology, which helped minimise their impact on the land.

  4. megatron_mcdaniels

    The 13 year old in me perked up when i heard "bandicoot".