The thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger looked like a large, long dog, with stripes, a heavy stiff tail and a big head. Its scientific name, Thylacinus cynocephalus, means a pouched dog with a wolf’s head. Fully grown it measured about 180 cm (6 ft) from nose to tail tip, stood about 58 cm (2 ft) high at the shoulder and weighed up to 30 kg. The short, soft fur was brown except for 13 – 20 dark brown-black stripes that extended from the base of the tail to almost the shoulders. The stiff tail became thicker towards the base and appeared to merge with the body.
Tasmanian Tigers were said to be usually mute, but when anxious or excited made a series of husky, coughing barks. When hunting, they gave a distinctive terrier-like, double yap, repeated every few seconds.
The tiger was shy and secretive and always avoided contact with humans. Despite its common name, ‘tiger’ it had a quiet, nervous temperament compared to its little cousin, the Tasmanian devil. Captured animals generally gave up without a struggle, and many died suddenly, apparently from shock. When hunting, the tiger relied on a good sense of smell, and stamina. It was said to pursue its prey relentlessly until the prey was exhausted. The tiger was rarely seen to move fast, but when it did, it appeared awkward. It trotted stiffly, and when pursued, broke into a kind of shambling canter.
Since 1936, no conclusive evidence of a tiger has been found. However, the incidence of reported tiger sightings has continued. There have been hundreds of sightings since 1936, many of which may have been clear cases of misidentification.
During the nineteen-eighties Parks and Wildlife Officer, Richard Mulrooney was said to have undertaken an extensive but unsuccessful search to confirm a 1982 sighting reported near the Arthur River in the State’s northwest.
Now twenty-three years later startling information has emerged which has shocked Tasmanian residents and left a cloud, darker than the crimes committed against the native aboriginal population and the wretched inhabitants of the Port Arthur Penal Colony.
It appears that Parks and Wildlife were compelled to suppress Richard Mulrooney’s startling report that rare DNA, extracted from skeletal remains was found in bottled jars of ethanol on the dusty shelf of a house in a remote part of Northern Tasmania. Only last year more Frankenstein style remains were found there. Amongst these was a well-preserved, one hundred and thirty-six-year-old Tasmanian tiger pup.
It has now emerged that a young girl and her grandmother conspired to undertake horrific experiments on these innocent creatures in a cottage in the wilds of Tasmania during the late eighteen nineties and the first part of the nineteenth century. It would seem that they relentlessly pursued the Tasmanian tiger, trapped them and committed heinous crimes against them. They covered their actions by spreading the story that these carnivorous animals were a threat to both humans and livestock. Bounties were put on the head of tigers and hundreds of the animals were trapped, snared, shot and poisoned near their property. No one had guessed that these well-respected women kept a terrible secret.
Little Red Riding Hood, as the young woman was known throughout the small town of Keltro, was in the habit of going to work with her grandmother each weekend. She always wore a red cape and spent time in what was then known as the Asbestos Range National Park.
Narawntapu National Park, as it is now called, stretches from the low coastal ranges to the long Bass Strait beaches, and includes a historic farm, a complex of inlets, small islands, headlands, wetlands, dunes and lagoons, all with an amazing variety of plants and animals.
Red Riding Hood and her grandmother were well respected in the small community of Keltro. The Westwards had farmed the region for years. Red Riding Hood’s grandmother had come to Tasmania in 1835 on the Resource with other free settlers from England. Lucinda Westward had a Licence in Midwifery and was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. From about 1815 the colony began to grow rapidly as free settlers arrived and lands were opened up for farming. Lucinda Westward was the eldest daughter of Isaiah Spencer Westward an English farmer who claimed land in the Keltro region.
The beautiful, incredibly talented Westward became a prominent colonial medical “specialist”, a surgeon. In the early days, she was mainly called upon to restore or amputate damaged limbs. Great advances in anatomical knowledge during the early colonial period, derived from the dissection of human bodies, greatly increased the range of feasible operations. After the advent of anaesthetics and later of disinfectants in the middle of the nineteenth century, she is said to have ventured into the abdominal cavity, the neck, and the chest. These operations were mainly performed under chloroform.
Westward had some experience in obstetrics and gynaecology and in later years strayed into the doubtful provenances of mesmerism and electrotherapy. She was highly successful and became very wealthy. Upon her retirement, she chose to become reclusive and live in the cottage, adjacent to the Asbestos Ranges and despite the humble appearance of her home lived in luxury.
What no one knew was that although she maintained the appearance of a congenial, ageing doctor, Lucinda Westward was dabbling in evil arts and she had found creatures to experiment upon. Isaiah Westward had always complained that a wolf-like creature was eating his stock and Lucinda decided to take her revenge and experiment on this ancient species.
To capture these shy and secretive creatures, which generally avoided any human contact, Lucinda sent her granddaughter into the park with her basket to play among the butterflies and flowers that littered them. The girl had a special skill. She was able to communicate with all creatures and she enchanted even the hesitant Tasmanian tiger. When Red Riding took off her hooded red cape to reveal terrible bruises and scars the tiger went willingly to Grandmother’s house to protect her from the torture so cruelly inflicted upon her. Once there the beast was locked in a barren steel cage and subjected to unspeakable torture.
Mulrooney, now retired, told reporters that the ghastly scene of mangled bodies parts in bottles found at the long-abandoned Westward property left him permanently traumatised. He reported that these animals were routinely cut open, subjected to surgical operations, poisoned and forced to live in dark, barren steel cages for years. Many were left to suffer and die in these cages without any pain relief.
Today the Narawntapu National Park is a place of peace. However, many visitors to the park have reported sighting creatures that look like Tasmanian Tigers and have said that they have smelled their distinctive odour and heard husky coughing barks late at night. If you are out walking this park late at night you might hear the spine-chilling, high pitched screeches of a Tasmanian Devil or smell the distinctive odour of the Tasmanian Tiger. If you do, get away from there as fast as you can – you are in grave danger. The legacy of Lucinda Westward and her granddaughter lives on in the forest where followers, generations removed, continue the practice of evil she began so long ago. Watch your step carefully! The ghostly spirits of tortured creatures regularly avenge the dead.
“What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit to their cruelty.” Leo Tolstoy