Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)

The last one died in Hobart Zoo
   during a night so raw,
he curled up tight and, shivering,
   froze from nose to paw.

Three years before, a chap appeared
   with movie-making gear.
“Benjamin” paced and yawned, then nipped
   the bloke’s placental rear.

With jaws too weak to maim a man
   his wild kin chomped on possum
and, owing to their shyness, humans
   rarely came across ’em.

Sheep vanished—from bad management—
   yet who did farmers blame?
That’s right, you guessed it! So ten-thousand
   riflemen took aim.
The chance his feral fellows prowl
   these days is less than scant.
So why then don’t we say goodby,
   you ask? We simply can’t!

Across the windswept hinterlands,
   we hunt with cameras, phones,
and sometimes glimpse a ghost, a shadow,
   imagination’s bones.

Through stands of fragrant Huon Pine
   older than Canopus,
across the plains of button grass
   (the island’s magnum opus);

on cliffs that overlook the deep
   where sponges, crinoids, corals—
bright yellow, purple, cream and pink—
   live far from human quarrels;

or on the outer edge of Hobart
   (that quaint marina city
which, one day in a coming eon,
   will all be rubble—pity!);

as tawny frogmouths croon unseen,
   as bold rosellas whistle,
as pademelons graze, and quolls
   keep hidden in the thistle;

under a crag, above a lake,
   amid the heath and fern,
the wombat, wattlebird and devil,
   we search for him and yearn

and think how we’re the first on Earth
   that’s got a choice to make—
for we’re the killer asteroid,
   the hurricane, and quake!

He’s merely one more casualty
   that perished on a planet
where dwells an ape whose foremost task  
   is her him. But can it?

In petroglyphs, on postage stamps,
   badge of the cricket team,
symbol of Tasmania,
   he rouses us to dream.


Miles T. Ranter's picture
Thanks, Elisa! There are also some short videos of thylacines in zoos, the most famous being of "Benjamin," the one in Hobart Zoo. His death (from neglect on a very cold night) was the moment the species went extinct. If you watch the video, you will see how doglike he was and kind of cute, actually. They were harmless to humans and quite docile.

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