|Sub grouping||Alien big cat|
Also known by its native name, the yarri, it is described as being a dog-sized feline with stripes and a long tail, prominent front teeth and a savage temperament. It has been hypothesized to be a survivor or descendant of the large predatory marsupial Thylacoleo, officially considered to be extinct, or possibly a large feral cat variant (given possible discrepancies with thylacoleo dentition). In 1926 A. S. le Souef described it as being a "Striped marsupial cat" in The Wild Animals of Australasia, this information later also included in Furred Mammals of Australia, by Ellis Troughton, longtime curator of mammals in the Australian Museum. Among cryptids it has arguably come closest to official recognition.
The earliest documented witness reports of the Queensland marsupial tiger date from 1871, with indigenous traditions of the yarri preceding these. Reports indicate that it is fast and agile (Welfare & Fairley, 1981). Reports have come consistently from the Northeast of Queensland. Though these have diminished in number since the 1950s, they continue to occur (the Beast of Buderim being one recent example of the phenomenon).
Thylacoleo, an animal of similar size and predatory habits, did live in Australia as recently as the late Pleistocene period, perhaps coexisting with the very first humans that arrived at Australia who were the ancestors of modern Australian Aborigines. However, scientists estimate that Thylacoleo became extinct 30,000 years ago. Modern sightings of an animal described as remarkably like Thylacoleo have led some researchers to speculate that a small relict population has somehow survived in remote areas. Cryptozoologists who promote the theory of survival of the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus, a Thylacinid, and also currently accepted as extinct, favour proposed survival of the Queensland tiger. The fundamental difference between the two cases, however, is that the last Tasmanian tiger in captivity died in 1936, and the species was not officially declared as extinct until 1986. This makes the prospect of species survival of the thylacine more likely than that of Thylacoleo.
Thylacine or Thylacoleo?
In his 1965 revision of the book Furred Animals of Australia, Ellis Troughton proposed that the Queensland tiger was merely a mainland variant of the thylacine. Similar ideas have been promoted since then, most notably by Victor Albert and Peter Chapple - these theories and variants of them have been discussed in The Fortean Times, leading to some confusion. When discussing sightings of the Queensland tiger or animals thought to be the Queensland tiger, people sometimes refer to them as thylacines, though there are distinct and consistent differences in the descriptions of the animals (i.e.: head shape, position and colour of stripes, arboreal habits).
While Cape York artist Percy Trezise believes the region is home to the thylacine, others have cited the popular urban myth of American soldiers bringing pumas to Queensland during World War II, with local Bob Whiston and tree kangaroo expert Roger Martin suggesting that sightings are of either Lumholtz's or Bennett's tree kangaroos, unfamiliar animals which walk on four legs when terrestrial and are found in the areas from which reports originate (this concurs with one of Bernard Heuvelmans' theories regarding some sightings).
In popular culture
The theory of continued Thylacoleo presence on mainland Australia and thylacine presence in Tasmania has been covered on various Television shows including an episode of Animal Planet's show Animal X and on The National Geographic Channel. Individual sightings of the Queensland marsupial tiger continue to appear in newspapers, though in far less numbers than formerly. In the 1970s, naturalist Janeice Plunkett collected over 100 reports of sightings or shootings of "tigers", including reports clearly indicating that the animal observed was a marsupial. Some writers believe that, if the animal did formerly exist, it may now be extinct, given the diminishing numbers of tiger quolls and northern quolls across the same region.
- Heuvelmans, Bernard (1995) . On the Track of Unknown Animals. (translated from the French by Richard Garnett, drawings by Alika Lindbergh, introduction by Gerald Durrell). London & New York : Kegan Paul International. ISBN 0-7103-0498-6.
- Smith, Malcolm (1997). Bunyips & Bigfoots. Millennium Books. ISBN 978-1-86429-081-3.
- Cropper, Paul (1994). Out of the shadows : mystery animals of Australia. Chippendale. ISBN 0-330-27499-6.
- "Qld: mysterious creature roams Cape York". Australian Associated Press General News. 2 July 2003.
- Shuker, Karl. Mystery Cats of the World. London: Robert Hale, 1989. ISBN 0-7090-3706-6
- Shuker, Karl. In Search of Prehistoric Survivors. London: Blandford, 1995. ISBN 0-7137-2469-2