Not everyone is prepared to dismiss the Tweed, Australia, legend of a large flesh-eating marsupial lion stalking the dense hinterland near Tumbulgum, with a handful of locals convinced the beast is real.
For years an urban myth about this ancient creature has circulated on the Tweed.
But experts reject the theory, saying Thylacoleo carnifex (murderous lion) was too long extinct.
Fossils indicate the marsupial lion was the largest meat-eating mammal known to have ever existed in Australia.
The beasts were about 75cm high at the shoulder and about 150cm from head to tail and had retractable claws, a trait unique to marsupials.
Tweed Historical Society member Brian Boyd said he heard the stories about a creature near north Tumbulgum and from the descriptions he had been given, it could only be one thing.
“I know a few people who have seen the creature. They have recalled it for me and provided sketches,” he said. “Every time we get the same description. It looks like a large tiger or lion but it has cramped-up hind legs more like a marsupial. It has a thick stunted nose like a wombat and is covered in brindle fur with sulphur yellow spots. These descriptions fit the bill with the marsupial lion.”
Mr Boyd is so engrossed by the stories and descriptions he has been given by locals that he has built a scale papier mache model of the creature, which turns heads when he puts it on his front lawn in Tweed Heads West.
“I have a friend who has seen it twice and he said it was like no other creature he had ever seen in Australia,” he said.
“Just maybe one of these creatures survived and it is happy out there feeding off the wildlife near Tumbulgum.”
Northern New South Wales environmental scientist Gary Opit, 64, is adamant a marsupial lion does exist, saying he has seen such a creature at least four times.
The “marsupial lion” is an actual creature (extinct) in the genus Thylacoleo (“Pouch Lion”) that lived in Australia from the late Pliocene to the late Pleistocene (2 million to 46 thousand years ago). Some of these “marsupial lions” were the largest mammalian predators in Australia of that time, with Thylacoleo carnifex approaching the weight of a small lion.