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Tasmanian Tiger Expedition 2009 - Latest Updates
21 December 2009
In mid November Michael and I retrieved the final 2 Monster Quest cameras. Unfortunately there were no additional useful photographs on these cameras. We kind of expected this result as we deployed them knowing their battery life was very limited indeed, back in February.
All the same, we revisted the exact location at which we found our prospective print in February and deployed 6 cameras within a few kilometres, including 1 camera covering exactly the same spot. A number of early accounts suggest the thylacine was migratory, completing a circuit around the state each year. Given we discovered out print in February, we hope to have the same spot covered from November 2009 through to March 2010. The camera we deployed in May was still taking photos when Michael recovered it in November, 6 months later, so we are certain the deployments completed in November will run through until March at least.
We also discovered a number of interesting prints - smaller than those of February, and somewhat confusing: they match in general proportions with the long hind foot of a thylacine (x2) and the small, round forefoot also (x3), but seemed to be just too easy to come by. Either we've found a thylacine highway or there is some other mammal out there really confusing us.
At one point a silent dark mammal ran across the track in front of us. Its colour was chocolatey, like that of a devil. I only caught a glimpse as Michael was in front but he is fairly sure it had a bushy tail on it - making it most likely a silent devil.
The other big bonus to come out of this trip was the clear discovery of numerous wombat prints in mud similar to the mud where we found our prospective thylacine print in February. These will provide for the best comparison yet with our prospective print. As I write this, that comparison has not yet been made. Soon though, I hope to put all images online for all to constructively debate.
30 October 2009
Michael has just retrieved one camera we deployed in May. The good news is that the lithium ion batteries lasted in the Scout Guard SG-550V camera for over 5 months and were still running when the camera took a photo of him getting it down.
In my optimism for wildlife I set the camera to take a single photo per trigger - wanting to fit as much data on there as possible. One photo should be enough for an ID in most cases, and in our experiences to date, if you take 3 photos, more often the animal has fled the lens by the end of the photo shoot.
However, despite my optimism the camera was triggered only 46 times in over 5 months - including Michael's portrait and a number where the animal is not visible in the frame.
No tasmanian tigers, but we did get some interesting photos including a Tasmanian devil, which I suspect is not common for the area we targeted.
Don't forget the homepage announcement - you can now follow WLMD on Twitter. You can get live updates which I can post via mobile (cell) phone whilst "on the road" in Tasmania next month for the next deployment of cameras, and when we finally get to pull the last of the Monster Quest cameras out of the bush.
7 June 2009
There is good news and there is bad news which comes out of the 3rd trip to Tasmania that took place in May.
First the bad news - the weather was so wild that it was just not feasible to recover the cameras we had hoped on reaching. As I wrote just before I left (below), the Monster Quest episode was airing in the United States just as I was travelling back to Tasmania. As shown in the MQ episode, we discovered a footprint which is a very good match for the thylacine. At the time we deployed a pair of cameras very near the location of this footprint and we had hoped to check these just this past month. A quick look at how much water was flowing in the Franklin River should explain why crossing any sort of river was akin to suicide on this trip.
But that leads me into the good news - we will have to go back one more time this year in order to recover those cameras!
So - with our initial plan out the window we resorted to a hasty plan 'B'. As mentioned earlier, I have recently made contact with a person who claims to have seen 5 thylacines over the past several decades, at another location in Tasmania's south west. We decided to head there and drop a new camera into the bush. We also took time to visit Adamsfield - formerly a bustling mining town now only 2 huts and scattered debris remain to remind us of the colourful past of this region.
Finally, as a result of our filming with Monster Quest, a colleague of Michael's came forward earlier this year with his own thylacine sighting story. This one comes from Tasmania's north and was made in the 1990s. The witness was on his property, near where a creek runs through it and saw a thylacine come up from the creek, through a clearing, sit, and then bounce off into the scrub. The entire sighting length was about 30 seconds and it was made through a rifle scope at about 100 yards. Ten years prior his father had also seen a thylacine within 200 yards of the same spot.
We visited this property and scouted out the terrain. Although there have been some changes during the past 10 years, using online topographic maps and satellite imagery it was very easy to see how the creek leads to nearby national park land. We had originally intended to take 2 new cameras to the location where our footprint was found but these did not ship in time, so the last thing we accomplished before this third trip ended was to scout out potential camera drop points in suitable habitat near to where these two sightings occurred.
All going to plan Michael should be able to deploy these two cameras without me, some time in the next few weeks.
This means that when we do get around to collecting cameras later this year we will have to visit numerous locations, both in Tasmania's south west and north - and I can't wait to see what we find!
In the meantime, I have put many hours into analysing photographs of the footprint which we have found. I am currently exploring the best way to further publish this information, but what I will add at this point, is that I am now even more convinced than I was during filming, that our footprint does indeed match the Tasmanian tiger.
14 May 2009
Interestingly, and quite by accident, during the past month I have come into contact with someone who claims to have seen no less than 5 thylacines in their time over the past several decades. These have all been from the same area, which is a moderate distance from our current search.
This past week Michael and I have been researching the location further and I am very happy to say that we have been able to schedule time to visit this spot and deploy cameras there also.
Therefore the scope for this final trip has increased: we will now have 2 areas of interest for our camera deployments.
Only a few hours to go now until I fly back to Tasmania. Last minute gear preparations are in place. I look forward to reading all your comments at the new discussion forum on this website when I return!
12 May 2009
The news went public a few days ago that the sponsor for this expedition has been the television show Monster Quest. The documentary which has been produced is an episode called "Isle of the Lost Tiger" and it screens in the US on the 13th, 14th and 24th of May.
I'm scheduled to fly to Tasmania in 2 days. The date will be 14th May AEST - which corresponds to the airing of the MQ episode, State-side.
Michael called today with some health concerns so we are uncertain at this stage as to how far we will penetrate Tasmania's rugged south-west forests.
New trail cameras have been purchased and are on order. These are scheduled to arrive in Tasmania tomorrow and will replace the cameras that have been operating since the start of the project.
The weather outlook is grim for our first day of walking... Gale-force winds, rain, and highland snow.