Tasmanian Wilderness


This island, which separated from southeastern Australia after the last ice age, has birds and mammals found only rarely on its big northern neighbor due to habitat loss and introduced predator species.

Strange egg-laying mammals like platypus and spiny echidnas are here with elsewhere-unusual marsupials such as spotted-tail quolls, or tiger cats, Tasmanian pademelons, bettongs, potoroos, and fierce Tasmanian devils—world’s largest carnivorous marsupials, known for spine-chilling vocalizations and jaws that easily chew and swallow bones. (It’s now felt their reputed viciousness may have resulted from cruel, relentless persecution.) There are kangaroos, wallabies, endearingsmall bearlike wombats, and in surrounding waters, leopard and southern elephant seals, pilotand right whales.

Birds of over 320 species include five kinds of albatross, brown and gray goshawks, whitebreastedsea eagles, tawny frogmouths, beautiful firetails, and exceedingly rare orange-belliedparrots with such other endemics as masked owls, dusky robins, green rosellas, 40-spottedpardalotes, brilliant honeyeaters.

Almost 30 percent of Tasmania’s 26,405 square miles (68,408 km2) is set aside in dramaticallybeautiful national parks and reserves in widely diverse habitat—rugged mountains, rivers,bays, sheltered inlets, ancient pines, temperate rain forest, much of it seeming untouched bycivilization.

Of special significance is the Tasmanian Wilderness, one of the largest temperate wildernessareas in the southern hemisphere, a U.N. World Heritage Site covering 20 percent of Tasmania,made up of five national parks—CRADLE MOUNTAIN-LAKE ST. CLAIR with its abundantwildlife and superb Overland Track trail, FRANKLIN-GORDON WILD RIVERS, huge, wildSOUTHWEST, HARTZ MOUNTAINS, and WALLS OF JERUSALEM.

In these are most of Tasmania’s notable species, plus others—regnans swamp gums growing over325 feet (100 m) high, world’s tallest flowering plants; 3,000-year-old King Billy pines; mountainshrimp unchanged in 250 million years; red-headed velvet worms unchanged in ahalf-billion years, which fire jets of sticky liquid from head projectiles onto prey.

But rarer than all these are ancient inhabitants that are neither plant or

Cradle Mountain, almost 625 square miles (1,610 km2) in the central highlands is known for relatively, almost 625 square miles (1,610 km2) in the central highlands is known for relativelytame wildlife, gorgeous scenery—rugged mountains, glacial lakes, open alpine moors, deepgorges, and forested valleys—and trails ranging from easy to arduous, including the famousOverland Track. Comfortable lodge and cabins; 53 miles (85 km) south of Davenport. Tel: (+61) 1300-368-550.

Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers is Tasmania’s most remote park, more than 1,700 square milesis Tasmania’s most remote park, more than 1,700 square miles(4,410 km2), 112 miles (180 km) west of Hobart, with high mountains, rivers, challenging bushwalking,rock-climbing, exciting river-rafting. Tel: (+61) 004-717-122 or 004-712-511.

Southwest is Tasmania’s largest, wildest park, mostly untracked, uninhabited, little visited—is Tasmania’s largest, wildest park, mostly untracked, uninhabited, little visited—scenically dramatic with wild rivers, countless lakes, perhaps the world’s last great temperate rainforest, and some 30 animals found nowhere else. Camping. Contact Southwest National Park, P.O.Box 41, Westerway, Tas 7140, Tel: (+61) 002-881-283.

Hartz Mountains, 28 square miles (71 km2), 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Hobart, glacier-carved, 28 square miles (71 km2), 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Hobart, glacier-carvedhigh moorland plateau with magnificent views, picnic facilities, shelter huts, no camping. Tel: (+61) 002-981-577.

Walls of Jerusalem, 200 square miles (518 km2) of spectacular subalpine wilderness, five steep mountain peaks with glacial lakes, ancient pine forests, popular all year with bushwalkers. Bushcamping only. South of Liena. Tel: (+61) 003-635-182.

Threats in Tasmania have included logging and dams, especially one on the Gordon River inthe 1970s inundating Lake Pedder and its remarkable quartzite beach.

Both Australia and New Zealand have air links to Tasmania. Most popular times are summerDecember–February. Weather always changeable, with warm, waterproof clothing essential (snow possible in higher elevations anytime).

 

 Tasmanian devils’ reputation for ferocity comes from formidable jaws, able to crush all but largest bones so they completely consume carcasses, plus their habit of gaping with every tooth bared, often with growls and high-pitched spine-chilling screams. Usually this reflects fear and uncertainty more than aggression. They are shy, mild-mannered, even affectionate, better at consuming carrion than killing prey. Early stories of savage dispositions resulted, it’s now felt, from cruel mistreatment. Small bear-like marsupials, they nurture young in backward-facing pouches. Driven to extinction in Australia, they’ve been protected in Tasmania since 1941 and are fairly common, especially in Cradle Mountain National Park.

Tasmanian devils’ reputation for ferocity comes from formidable jaws, able to crush all but largest bones so they completely consume carcasses, plus their habit of gaping with every tooth bared, often with growls and high-pitched spine-chilling screams. Usually this reflects fear and uncertainty more than aggression. They are shy, mild-mannered, even affectionate, better at consuming carrion than killing prey. Early stories of savage dispositions resulted, it’s now felt, from cruel mistreatment. Small bear-like marsupials, they nurture young in backward-facing pouches. Driven to extinction in Australia, they’ve been protected in Tasmania since 1941 and are fairly common, especially in Cradle Mountain National Park.

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