Many of us are familiar with grainy photographs of thylacines behind bars. This skeleton, an adult male, is one of the few specimens that can be traced back to a live animal seen in those old photos. Captured in the bush near Tyenna, by Ted Power, in 1911, it was sold to Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo, then run by Mary Roberts in the grounds of her large house in Battery Point. Roberts paid £12 for the animal on 12 August 1911 and the event was recorded in the Mercury two days later:
“On Saturday forenoon there was some excitement caused at the Shamrock Hotel by the exhibition of a Tasmanian tiger, which had been captured at Tyenna… the animal was subsequently added to the Beaumaris Zoo.” (Mercury, 14 August 1911)
The Tyenna thylacine appears to have been a favourite of Roberts and she organised for it to be photographed to produce a postcard for the zoo. Over time, it became quite tame and it is reported that Roberts often released it from its cage and walked it around the zoo grounds on a collar and lead.
On 9 March 1915, the Tyenna thylacine died. Mrs Roberts had the body placed in cold storage and offered it to the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum in Melbourne. Interestingly, in her letter to that museum, Mrs Roberts mentioned that she had four other thylacine skeletons – which she had loaned to Professor Theodore Flynn (father of Errol) of the University of Tasmania. However, when she requested (of Flynn) that the specimens be returned to her, she was unsuccessful – as TMAG also was, when they asked for the specimens lent to Flynn (at the time, a trustee of TMAG) to be returned.
When Mary Roberts died, her private collection was donated to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – including the bones of this thylacine. In the 1920s, skeletons from the museum were sent to Mr G. F. Moore of Melbourne for articulation. The Tyenna animal was one of them, and is one of a pair – a male and a female – of articulated thylacine skeletons in the TMAG collection.