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30 October 2020 Thylacine and Tasmanian devil: between hope and reality – a lesson to be learnt from Google Trends search data
Michael Zieger, Steffen Springer
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The two iconic Tasmanian species, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) and the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), are of great interest to the general public and the media. The most likely extinct Tasmanian wolf or tiger, the thylacine, symbolises human responsibility for nature and species conservation and inspired the ‘National Threatened Species Day’, which commemorates the death of the last thylacine at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart on 7 September 1936 to raise awareness of endangered plants and animals. Since the spread of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease critically endangered the survival of the largest remaining native carnivore (S. harrisii) today, this has generated both scientific interest and the interest of the general public. Google Trends has already been used as a tool for documenting and investigating the information needs and concerns of the population, as has been shown using the example of diseases. In this study, Google Trends data were used to examine the seasonality of the search term ‘thylacine sightings’ and the development of the frequency of different search terms in the period between 2004 and 2020. As a result, relative search intensities for ‘thylacine cloning’ and ‘cloning extinct species’ have shown a decrease over time. While Google Trends cannot clearly determine search motivation, search terms can be selected for the examinations that document more hope or a rational need for information or concern.

Journal compilation © CSIRO 2019
Michael Zieger and Steffen Springer "Thylacine and Tasmanian devil: between hope and reality – a lesson to be learnt from Google Trends search data," Australian Journal of Zoology 67(4), 221-225, (30 October 2020).
Received: 11 August 2020; Accepted: 7 October 2020; Published: 30 October 2020

Devil Facial Tumour Disease
extinct species, Google Trends
National Threatened Species Day
Sarcophilus harrisii
search engine data
Tasmanian devil
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