Friday, April 01, 2005

Expert Aid In Tiger Search
25 Mar 2005

THE Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery has offered to become a Tasmanian tiger "crime scene investigation" partner with a national magazine.

TMAG director Bill Bleathman has written a letter to The Bulletin's editor, Garry Linnell, proposing they team up for long-term research that would scientifically investigate sightings reported regularly to the museum.

The magazine's offer of $1.25 million to anyone who presents conclusive proof the thylacine lives has triggered interest around the world.

Thylacine Expeditions operator Stewart Malcolm, of Burnie, has upped the ante by offering $1.75 million for the same find.

Mr Bleathman, who has been fielding calls from international media, said: "My letter was to say this may be a viable option for publicity that's longer-lasting and has more of a scientifically credible basis."

He said museum staff, who were world thylacine experts, received eight to 10 reports of sightings a year.

"We follow up sightings as best we can using the resources available. My suggestion is we could do this in a more professional, scientifically credible manner, treating it more like a crime scene."
Mr Bleathman said he feared unscrupulous "bounty-hunters" careering through the bush despite the competition's rigorous conditions.

Critics have slammed the reward, saying the money would be better spent preserving the Tasmanian devil, under threat from facial tumour disease.

Mr Linnell said the magazine had spent weeks with lawyers defining the competition rules and he believed there were ways to legally win the money.

"It's my competition, it's my rules and if [the critics] want to have their own competition, let them," he said.

"Yes, it is tough but you know what? It's $1.25 million at stake."

Competition registration opened yesterday and Mr Linnell has already received photographs claimed to be of Tasmanian tigers. They are now being analysed.

Environment Minister Judy Jackson has criticised the reward as too much like the "bounty" of old.

But some scientists have expressed hope the bids would focus attention on Tasmania's many threatened species, including the devil.