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National Museum of Australia

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Glass photographic magic lantern slide of a thylacine at the London Zoo

2013.0058.0001

Glass photographic magic lantern slide of a thylacine at the London Zoo

Object information

Description

This is a magic lantern slide of a thylacine at London Zoo. Between the 1850s and the 1920s thylacines were exported to zoos across the world, including London, Paris, Antwerp, Cologne, Berlin and New York. The last known captive thylacine died at the Hobart Zoo in 1936, while the last known thylacine outside Australia died in London Zoo in 1931.

Physical description

A glass lantern slide featuring a thylacine standing on a bare floor with a brick wall in the background. There is a black paper border around the edge. Cursive text at the top reads '[Th]ylacine' and text beneath reads 'Copyright - D. Seth-Smith'. There is a slight discolouration on the right hand side of the slide.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of a glass lantern slide of a thylacine at London Zoo taken by David Seth-Smith, British zoologist and curator of birds and mammals at London Zoo. The thylacine in this photograph was one of the last remaining in captivity. Zoologist Seth-Smith visited Australia in 1908 on behalf of the Zoological Society of London, collecting fauna for a special exhibition of Australasian animals at the London Zoological Garden.

The thylacine was a large carnivorous marsupial that lived in eucalypt forests and coastal heathlands in Tasmania. Settlers dubbed it the 'Tasmanian tiger' because it had dark stripes along the sandy-yellow fur on its back. Shy and with a stiff gait, thylacines hunted at night. They mostly ate bandicoots, possums and other marsupials, rodents and small birds. From 1886 until 1909, the Tasmanian government paid one pound for every thylacine killed, as they were believed to kill livestock. A sharp drop in the number of bounties paid suggests that thylacines suffered a widespread disease in 1908-1909, and the species never recovered. Thylacines were not declared protected animals until 1936, just before the last one died in captivity in Hobart. The thylacine's story has become an emblematic of the wider history of species extinction in Australia and beyond.

Object information

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