Posted by: CS | January 13, 2014

Should We “Bring Back” the Tasmanian Tiger, or the Tasmanian Aborigines


The Tasmanian tiger or Thylacinus cynocephalus, an extinct carnivorous marsupial. Image source.

Speaking the other day of the Thylacine (aka Tasmanian Tiger), I was reminded of efforts to restore this extinct species to life through the genetic transformation of a related species (the Tasmanian devil)  using DNA from some stuffed museum  specimen of the late lamented critter.

This is something that Michael Archer, Director of the Australian Museum, urges that we have a moral obligation to do.

We killed these things … we shot every one we saw. [So] we have a moral obligation to bring [them] back.

This, it seems to me, is not exactly a cogent moral argument. When he says “we killed these things” he means some Australian sheep farmers killed them before you or I were born. So his moral imperative seems like a case of seeking support for a dubious cause by inducing a sense of guilt in the minds of the innocent.

Moreover, the unqualified contention that the extermination of a species is morally wrong raises difficult questions about, say, the smallpox virus, or the mosquito, either of which we might seem well justified in eliminating from the face of the earth for all time.

The thylacine had powerful jaws, which it could open very wide. Image source.

True, the Tasmanian tiger may be a more worthy denizen of the earth than the smallpox virus, and I have no objection to its revival so long as it doesn’t roam in my back yard (with its mouth open to display 46 teeth, the Thylacine was not a cudddly creature).

But I deplore the moral fervor to revive a mere marsupial, when no thought whatsoever appears to be given to “bringing back” the Tasmanian aboriginals.

“We” killed those unfortunate fellow creatures and children of God, too. Why then is there no agitation on moral grounds to bring those, our human brothers and sisters, back?

Is it perhaps the case that the moral argument for bringing back the Tasmanian tiger is a manifestation of that odious anti-human ideology of the self-hating environmentalist?

Not that I’m against recreating the Tasmanian tiger. It would no doubt provide zoologists with a welcome subject of study. But just spare us the moral agitation.

Truganini (c. 1812 – 8 May 1876) the last Tasmanian Aboriginal.  Image source.

Truganini (c. 1812 – 8 May 1876) the last Tasmanian Aboriginal. Image source.

In contrast, the moral case for bringing back the Tasmanian aborigines is compelling. The aborigines were robbed of their hunting land by British settlers and sheep farmers, who  slaughtered them like vermin.

An account of the cruel, ruthless and calculated extermination of the  Tasmanians is provided by Benjamin Madley in Journal of Genocide Studies:

The analysis of the frontier genocides waged against the Aboriginal Tasmanians, the Yuki of California, and the Herero of Namibia reveals a surprisingly congruent pattern despite the fact that the cases took place on different continents, under different regimes, and in different periods. The pattern divides into three phases. Colonists initiate the first by invasion. Economic and political frictions then develop between the two groups as they struggle for limited resources and political power. Unable to compete with the invaders’ technology, arms, and wealth, the indigenous people find their economy fundamentally threatened and basic political rights denied under the settler regime.

Aboriginal people begin the second phase by attacking settlers and their property in an attempt to regain access to economic resources, reclaim lost land, protect political rights, or exact revenge. Settlers and their government then retaliate, but cannot quickly defeat the indigenous peoples’ guerilla insurgency. Out of frustration and expediency, the invaders choose a “final solution” to the military conflict.

During and after the genocidal military campaign, the settlers’ government initiates the final phase by incarcerating Aboriginal people in camps that bear comparison with the Soviet gulag. In these reservations, settler governments continue genocidal policy though a varying combination of malnutrition, insufficient protection from the elements, inadequate medical care, overwork, unsanitary conditions, and violence.

This is no time to say to Truganini, the last living Tasmanian aboriginal: Rest in Peace. We should dig up her bones and transfer the DNA to the egg of a volunteer surrogate mother. Truganini would then assume the status of Eve to the resurrected people of Tasmania.



  1. […] the pre-European settlement natives of Canada in where I now live, but extending even to extinct aboriginal communities that might be revived by advanced genetic […]

  2. […] CanSpeccy: Should We “Bring Back” the Tasmanian Tiger, or the Tasmanian Aborigines […]

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