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Tiger Cats Rare

On North Coast

• Following recent reports of tiger cats being killed and seen in the Tooloom district after one

had been found dead in a fowl house, Mr. N. C. Hewitt, M.R.Z.S., writes:

Noel Burnet, F.R.Z.S., director

of Koala Park, in his "Austral-1 i ian Fauna" (1932), says of this!; variety of the native cat "the : head and body are up to 26 to \ 30 inches long and the tail from : 19 inches to 2 feet."

He states: "This variety ap pears to be nearly extinct but' was plentiful 50 to 60 years ago. Tiger cats are found in Eastern Australia and Tasmania. They! are fierce, daring, active and destructive creatures, being one of the few that the aborigines regarded as savage and will at tack man if cornered. The spot ted variety is smaller than the other tiger cat, and they are in no way related to the feline genus which has no pouch. They climb trees after birds and often take wallaHes. These mar supial 'cats' are strictly noc turnal and swif' in movement."

The Tooloom tig'er cat arid one shot by me at my home on Point Danger on the night of February 16. 1934, are the onlv authenticated ones I had heard of on the Far North Coast, al though 60 years ago I caught 'Several native cats of the very small variety in bandicoot traps at 15 Zadoc Strest, Lismore, when Brown's Creek was under scrub.

The Brisbane "Courier-Mail" t,20/2/'34) wrote under the cap tion "A Rare 'Mystery' Ani mal'* : "Before a strange animal could terrorise the countryside, as. did the so far unidentified Gippsland tiger-bear-jagtiar, in Victoria recently, it was shot by Mx*. N. C. Hewitt at his home on Point Danger a few nights ago. Hearing a midnight commotion ii: a nut tree outside his office, ihe investigated and then shot

I a rare and beautifully marked

• animal which he believed to be la destructive opossum but which, when exhibited in town, proved a bone for contention among quid nuncs and marsup ial pundits. Experienced field naturalists were unable to agree as to its identity.

"Three feet in length from nose to tip of tail it has a snout like an opossum, a head like a fox, the teeth and whiskers of a cat, the body spotted like a leopard, and tail of an opossum except that at the end there was a brush and the extreme point of the tail and the apical half of the under surface were clothed with fur and not naked as in the case of the.opossum. The forelegs are. shorter than .the hind ones conforming to the

marsupial type. The claws are covered by a pad as in the'case of the cat family. The animal has a pouch with two teats. The fur—a smooth dark brown—is suffused with white spots like a leopard, making a beautiful skin which has been cured and pre served. Most of those who in spected the creature had seen nothing like it. Some specula tively identified' it as an un commonly marked opossum, others a Squirrel? a fox, a capy bara (the largest extant rodent living on the banks of creeks), also called a cabiai or water hog, or a phascolomys ursinus— a nocturnal animal which feeds on roots and is found on river banks. Others declared it was neither one nor the other, and contended it was a hybrid cross between a cat and a rabbit, whilst one man declared it was a new animal which had es caped overboard in ocearr from some passing liner.

"Mrs. P. Fagan, a capable taxidermist of 'Greenmount' who has a number of phalang ers stuffed, including opossums and native cats, identified the creature as a marsupial 'cat' of the tiger variety. Occurring in Australia is a small group of marsupial carnivora known as Dasyures comprising two speci mens of tiger 'cats' and seven species of spotted native 'cats.' Dasyures, like the platypus, are rarities today and this is be lieved to be the first found on the Tweed." i

The Queensland Museum authorities were appealed to. Mr. H. A. Longman (Director) and Mr. T. C. Marshall. The former was extremely sceptical about it being a cross between a cat and a rabbit, the cat being a carnivorous animal—two dif feient orders. Mr. Marshall ob served: Tiger cats are hot read ily identified as they are very rarely seen, their habits being nocturnal. Finally Mrs. Fagan was proved right.

Meanwhile the 1934 tiger cat is secure in a glass globe case waiting patiently and appropri ately with a collection of Aus tralian ethnological specimens, the establishment of the Lis more City Museum to repose

herein.

But, as Bishop Storrs observed in Lismore City a fortnight ago, there is little real culture on the NGrth Coast. Meanwhile, over sea3 collectors are here buying up priceless relics and these ex hibits are being exported—lost

to Australia for ever.

Incidentally, as Australia this year is celebrating the centen ary of the discovery of gold and few people are aware that in the "Sixties" Tooloom was a rich gold field employing between 400 and 500 miners. On pages 110! and 111 of "The Australian Dic-i tionary of Dates," we read among the list of gold nuggecs this: "Large and nearly solid nugget of gold was found in 1860 at the Tooloom diggings, Northern. New South Wales, gross weight (Troy) 11 lbs. 8 oz. (140 oz.). Though listed in 1879 by Henniker Heaton as the 10th heaviest solid gold nugget found in Australia, it, later is classed by other standard works as the eighth heaviest."

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