Tasmania: Bringing the thylacine back to life (+video)

By David Beniuk

An 1800s painting of a thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, by John Lewin. Until it became extinct last century, the thylacine was the world's largest carnivorous marsupial.
An 1800s painting of a thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, by John Lewin. Until it became extinct last century, the thylacine was the world's largest carnivorous marsupial.

Not far from Cradle Mountain in Tasmania's rugged northwest the thylacine is being brought back to life.

It's not a scene from the sequel to The Hunter but an intriguing new exhibition on the much-lamented Tasmanian tiger.

The Wilderness Gallery at Cradle Mountain Chateau has joined forces with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to put together a thought-provoking show on what was the world's largest carnivorous marsupial.

Few are unmoved by a sorry story that ended in extinction, not least because of the famous film footage from 1936 of the last tiger in captivity.

That footage is part of the display, as is a rare rug made of the thylacine's fur bought at auction in 2002 and believed to be worth more than A$1 million (NZ$1.3m).

The faint possibility the thylacine might still be running around Tasmania's untrodden wilds has given the creature an almost mythical status.

The 2011 film starring Willem Dafoe as a hunter sent to find the last tiger has only raised those hopes.

Imaginations may be sent roaming but staff at Cradle Mountain Chateau say few bushwalkers arrive back saying they have spotted a tiger.

"We certainly get more senior people talking about it when they come through," says manager Mark Whitnell.

"We end up with lots of different stories about people's childhood experiences around the Tasmanian tiger.

"There's still that little bit of mystery about, well, maybe it is still out there and we certainly don't try and change people's thoughts around that."

The exhibition uses one of 10 rooms at the gallery, which makes for a nice distraction if, or when, the weather turns ugly.

The remainder of the gallery showcases the largest wilderness photography collection in the southern hemisphere, including works by the iconic Tasmanian photographer Peter Dombrovskis.

The chateau and gallery complex is nestled in alpine woodland a short drive to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park with its invigorating walks.

The 6km stroll around Dove Lake, at the base of Cradle Mountain, is mostly flat and takes around two hours.

The walk to the summit is an all-day adventure and is subject to changeable and severe weather.

Footage of the last Tasmanian tiger

IF YOU GO

Getting there: Cradle Mountain is a four-hour drive from Hobart or a two-hour drive from Launceston.
Fly there with Air New Zealand Book now

Staying there: Cradle Mountain Chateau has rooms from A$295 per night.

Playing there: The Tasmania Tiger Exhibition is part of the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery. The gallery is open every day from 10am-5pm and costs A$5 for guests of the Cradle Mountain Chateau and A$7 for visitors.

Further information: See puretasmania.com.au.

The writer was a guest of Pure Tasmania.

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