Odds that Tasmanian tigers are still alive are 1 in 1.6 trillion

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By Alice Klein

What are the odds that Tasmanian tigers still exist? About 1 in 1.6 trillion.

Mathematical models provide yet another good reason to think the fabled Australian species is long gone, despite occasional claims of sightings.

The Tasmanian tiger or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) once occupied most of Australia, but competition with dingoes drove it to extinction on the mainland about 2000 years ago. An isolated population persisted on the island state of Tasmania until it was colonised by the British in the 19th century. Hunters were paid bounties for killing thylacines to protect sheep. The last known individual died in captivity in 1936.

But the idea that a few thylacines might be clinging on in remote wilderness continues to make headlines around the world. The most recent batch of stories came after Bill Laurance at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, and his colleagues announced plans to investigate the remote Cape York peninsula at the northern tip of mainland Australia, where there were two claimed sightings in the 1980s.

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