Jaw-dropping colour footage of 'iconic' Tasmanian tiger released

·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

Historic footage of the last-known Tasmanian tiger has been painstakingly colourised to commemorate the now extinct creature on National Threatened Species Day.

Although the grainy black and white footage shot at Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo in 1933 will be familiar to many, watching the creature move around the screen in colour adds new depth to the experience.

Named Benjamin, the placid dog-like creature looks to the camera and then famously yawns, revealing pink colouration inside of his massive jaw.

Jaw-dropping vision of Tasmanian tigers has been released on National Threatened Species Day. Source: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)
Jaw-dropping vision of Tasmanian tigers has been released on National Threatened Species Day. Source: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)

His stripes are rendered in shades of brown, rather than the unsaturated grey and black most people born after they were declared extinct in 1936 are familiar with.

Colourisation experts at Paris’s Composite Films referenced pelts held at museums as well as drawings and written descriptions to ensure the tints and shades of his fur were rendered accurately.

The company's art director Samuel Francois-Steininger was given highly detailed 4K footage of the original 35mm negative by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) of Australia who commissioned the project.

“I had to take care of the rare footage, and pay tribute to the last representative of a species, which disappeared 85 years ago,” he said.

NFSA Curator, Vick Gwyn said she hopes the colourised film will "stimulate understanding" of "this remarkable animal". 

‘The results of this most recent outstanding digital preservation of the original black-and-white nitrate film brings a greater detail to the image and will continue to invite re-imagining and reconnection to this iconic footage," she said.

Key Tasmanian tiger facts you may not know

  • Tasmanian tigers were the largest known predatory marsupial

  • Reports suggest the animals were quite shy and were afraid of humans

  • There is no conclusive evidence that any Tasmanian tigers survived

  • Both male and female animals had pouches

  • National Threatened Species Day marks the day the last Tasmanian tiger died

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More than 1700 species facing extinction in Australia

There are less than a dozen known videos of the Tasmanian tiger, and they have a total run-time of just over three minutes.

Three years after the footage of Benjamin was shot by naturalist David Fleay, the animal had died of exposure and the species was declared extinct. 

Tasmanian tigers were hunted to extinction after Europeans colonised Tasmania. Source: Getty
Tasmanian tigers were hunted to extinction after Europeans colonised Tasmania. Source: Getty

At the time of European settlement it is believed there were around 5000 Tasmanian tigers in existence, however state government bounty systems, habitat loss and disease led to their rapid decline.

In Australia today, there are more than 1700 species or ecological communities threatened with extinction, with key drivers of this including habitat loss, climate change and introduced predators and disease.

Since the Black Summer bushfires ravaged large parts of the country, concern has grown about the future of iconic species including koalas and platypus.

More on extinction in Australia

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