The chance that Tasmanian tigers still exist is 1 in 1.6 trillion

There's a chance this freaky little creature didn't go extinct in 1936.
(Image credit: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

There is still a chance that the Tasmanian tiger hasn't gone extinct, but if you're ready to pack your safari gear, be warned: It is very, very, very slim.

New mathematical models put the odds of Tasmanian tigers still existing in the wild at 1 in 1.6 trillion, New Scientist reports. The semi-striped mammal went extinct 2,000 years ago in mainland Australia, but a population continued to live on the offshore island of Tasmania until British hunters drove them to extinction in the 1800s. The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936, although people claim to have seen the critter in the bush as recently as the 1980s.

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The new mathematical model, developed by Colin Carlson of the University of California at Berkeley, compiles confirmed and unconfirmed sightings to make optimistic and pessimistic guesses about the tiger's possible continued existence. The most optimistic projections estimate that the Tasmanian tiger died out in the wild in the late 1950s. An alternative model by Brendan Wintle at the University of Melbourne projects the mammal could have lived as long as until 1983 in the wild.

"We agree that it's exceedingly unlikely," admitted researcher Bill Laurance, who plans to search for the Tasmanian tiger with his colleagues on a remote tip of mainland Australia, where some late sightings were reported. "We've been saying that from the outset."

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.