The Sunday Tasmanian of 27 February 2022 announced that Col Bailey, 85, has passed away after a long illness.
Colin Raymond “Col” Bailey (born 1937 in Adelaide, Australia) was an Australian naturalist and Thylacine enthusiast. He firmly believed in the continued existence of the species and wrote three books on Thylacines describing sightings and the evidence of their presence. He grew up on a farm in rural South Australia. Due to Bailey’s remarkable interest in the Tasmanian tiger he later moved to Tasmania where he lived at the time of his death. Although he searched for the Thylacine for over 50 years, he only moved to New Norfolk, Tasmania, with his wife Lexia in 1990.
In 2005, one of the year’s biggest story concerned photos that were never published. In March, 2005, unpublished photos of a supposed living Tasmanian thylacine were all the rage in the Australian press. The Tasmanian Government appealed to a Victorian man, who claimed to have photographs of a live Tasmanian Tiger, or Thylacine, to make them available for forensic examination.
The man’s brother – described only as a tourist visiting from Germany, reportedly stumbled across the animal, presumed extinct for almost 70 years, earlier that year in the Tasmanian wilderness. The man said his brother had used a digital camera to snap two pictures showing the animal’s distinctive striped back. The photographs were briefly shown to the director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Bill Bleathman, and a wildlife biologist with the state’s Department of Primary Industries, Nick Mooney, who agreed the fuzzy images probably did show a Tasmanian Tiger.
But when further examinations were denied, claims of a hoax or a clever computer enhancement surfaced.
The Australian media then quoted Col Bailey, who had his own sighting in 1967, as saying he was “very skeptical” of digital pictures, not only because he had seen too many fakes, but because he has even fabricated his own to prove how easy they are to make.
After all the media attention, the German tourist simply went underground.
Bailey made some significant historical discoveries (see here) linking the Churchill cabin (pictured above) with the capture of the last Thylacine, Benjamin (seen below).
On 7 September 1936 only two months after the species was granted protected status, “Benjamin,” the last known thylacine, died from exposure at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart.
Col Bailey’s books
Tiger Tales (2001)
Shadow of the Thylacine (2010)
Lure of the Thylacine (2013)
In 2016, Bailey was interviewed by The Weekly Times’ reporter Sarah Hudson, reflecting on his last days in the quest. He couldn’t go on the long hikes any longer, but said “several times he has heard their call in the bush, the last time in 2008.”
Col has also become the unofficial point of contact for others who have experienced sightings, with hundreds of reports over the years. “I’d say about 10 per cent of those are spot on. You have to judge the person and whether they’re genuine,” he said.
At one point he’d receive about 30 reports a year, but by 2016, it has dropped to about five.
“It’s impossible to say why. Maybe there are less tigers left, but I believe the animal has moved further back into the wilderness,” Col said six years ago. “There are vast, untapped areas of Tasmania, rough areas, where no one goes, which I think is a good thing.”
Col Bailey sounded philosophical towards the end.
“It’s better they’re left on their own and they survive.”