The last Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) is photographed in Hobart in 1936. The female, about 12 years old, died later that year.

The last Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) is photographed in Hobart in 1936. The female, about 12 years old, died later that year.

It looks like what it is – a creature long dead. But the animal lying on its side at the National Museum of Australia is facing a new kind of threat.

Wearing masks, gloves and lab coats to protect themselves from the chemicals, conservators have just pulled the crudely skinned thylacine carcass from a display case filled with liquid the colour of over-brewed tea.

Among them is Briton Simon Moore, a freelance expert in the conservation of natural science specimens.

Natural sciences conservator Simon Moore and objects conservator Natalie Ison inspect a thylacine wet specimen at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Natural sciences conservator Simon Moore and objects conservator Natalie Ison inspect a thylacine wet specimen at the National Museum of Australia, in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

He has been called upon by Canberra's National Museum of Australia to assess the thylacine, which has become so fragile it has been removed from public display. Even the vibrations from people walking past the plate glass container were damaging it.

"We've been concerned about the condition of the thylacine, which is very important for us and for the nation," said Nicki Smith, the museum's deputy manager of conservation. "And we want to make sure we're doing the best that we can for it."

Ms Smith said the Tasmanian tiger was first removed from display in 2002, when the solution became so cloudy it was difficult to see the animal inside. The preserving solution was changed and the specimen returned to public display in 2005 but the liquid again turned cloudy and it was removed.

Museum tests suggested protein from the animal's muscles or calcium carbonate from its teeth and skeleton were leaching into the preserving solution, which was weakening its structural strength.

Mr Moore, whose career includes 23 years at London's Natural History Museum, said while the overall condition of the specimen appeared stable, he did find some white and waxy tissue near the pelvis.

"I can't say yet what it was but it could be slightly fatty," he said, adding that test results would provide more information. "But it shouldn't be like that because formalin and preservatives stabilise fats."

The sound generated from the tapping of the animal's bones and teeth suggested they were solid and had not decomposed, despite being preserved some time between 1928 and 1930. The acidity-alkaline level of liquid sampled from the internal cavity also signalled all was well with the organs.

"That's very encouraging," Mr Moore said. "Because sometimes a specimen can look fine from the outside but it can be deteriorating from the inside and that can give you a very nasty surprise."

Once Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial, the thylacine is one of more than 2400 items in the museum's "wet" collection, which Mr Moore reviewed on Monday. Among them is Phar Lap's 6.35-kilogram heart – one of the most popular objects at the museum.

Mr Moore said he was surprised by the size of the heart, given most horse hearts weigh about four kilograms.

"It was an enormous heart," he said. "One of the things we had at the Natural History Museum in London was an elephant heart, and it was almost as big as that."

It looks like what it is – a creature long dead. But the animal lying on its side at the National Museum of Australia is facing a new kind of threat.

Wearing masks, gloves and lab coats to protect themselves from the chemicals, conservators have just pulled the crudely skinned thylacine carcass from a display case filled with liquid the colour of over-brewed tea.

Among them is Briton Simon Moore, a freelance expert in the conservation of natural science specimens.

He has been called upon by Canberra's National Museum of Australia to assess the thylacine, which has become so fragile it has been removed from public display. Even the vibrations from people walking past the plate glass container were ?damaging it.

"We've been concerned about the condition of the thylacine, which is very important for us and for the nation," said Nicki Smith, the museum's deputy manager of conservation. "And we want to make sure we're doing the best that we can for it."

Ms Smith said the Tasmanian tiger was first removed from display in 2002, when the solution became so cloudy it was difficult to see the animal inside. The preserving solution was changed and the specimen returned to public display in 2005 but the liquid again turned cloudy and it was removed.

Museum tests suggested protein from the animal's muscles or calcium carbonate from its teeth and skeleton were leaching into the preserving solution, which was weakening its structural strength.

Mr Moore, whose career includes 23 years at London's Natural History Museum, said while the overall condition of the specimen appeared stable, he did find some white and waxy tissue near the pelvis.

"I can't say yet what it was but it could be slightly fatty," he said, adding that test results would provide more information. "But it shouldn't be like that because formalin and preservatives stabilise fats."

The sound generated from the tapping of the animal's bones and teeth suggested they were solid and had not decomposed, despite being preserved some time between 1928 and 1930. The acidity-alkaline level of liquid sampled from the internal cavity also signalled all was well with the organs.

"That's very encouraging," Mr Moore said. "Because sometimes a specimen can look fine from the outside but it can be deteriorating from the inside and that can give you a very nasty surprise."

Once Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial, the thylacine is one of more than 2400 items in the museum's "wet" collection, which Mr Moore reviewed on Monday. Among them is Phar Lap's 6.35-kilogram heart – one of the most popular objects at the museum.

Mr Moore said he was surprised by the size of the heart, given most horse hearts weigh about four kilograms.

"It was an enormous heart," he said. "One of the things we had at the Natural History Museum in London was an elephant heart, and it was almost as big as that."