Animals and plants of Tasmania
With fewer introduced predators and a relatively large amount of intact habitat, Tasmania is a final refuge for many animal species including the Tasmanian devil. The diversity of Tasmania's vegetation is also remarkable and includes some of the most ancient plant species on Earth, the tallest flowering trees, the oldest plant clones and a high proportion of endemic species
Tasmania is a natural haven for Australian wildlife. Bennetts wallabies, seals, penguins and wedge-tailed eagles can be found without venturing too far from the state’s capital, Hobart, and encounters with friendly wildlife are an almost inevitable feature of travels around the state.
About the size of a small dog, the Tasmanian devil is the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is found only in Tasmania. The discordant snarls, screeches and growls they make are believed to have contributed to the naming of the devil and they are often heard fighting over food and during mating.
The wombat is the largest burrowing mammal in Australia and is common in Tasmania, particularly in the north-east of the state. They are mostly nocturnal but some colonies of wombats, like those on Maria Island, are readily seen during the day. Wombat burrows may be up to 10 metres in length and 30 metres deep, with multiple entrances.
The pademelon is a stocky animal with a relatively short tail and legs to aid its movement through dense vegetation. It ranges in colour from dark-brown to grey-brown above and has a red-brown belly. The unusual common name, pademelon, is of Aboriginal derivation. The species is abundant and widespread throughout the state of Tasmania. It is commonly seen around many of the state's national parks and in the suburbs of Hobart.
The eastern quoll - or native cat, as it is sometimes called - is endemic to Tasmania. Male eastern quolls are about the size of a small domestic cat. Their fur is usually fawn, brown or black. Small white spots cover the body except for the bushy tail which may have a white tip. Eastern quolls are nocturnal and only occasionally forage or bask during daylight.
Tasmania has 12 species of bird found nowhere else on Earth. There are also a number of species that are endemic at the subspecies level, such as the threatened wedge-tail eagle and a number of species that are known as breeding endemics. Breeding endemics breed only in Tasmania and migrate to mainland Australia outside the breeding season. The endangered orange-bellied parrot and swift parrot are two such examples.
Dolphins are a common sight in Tasmanian waters. Bottle-nosed dolphins are prevalent in Macquarie Harbour and in waters off the Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island. The ever risible dolphin can be a regular accompaniment to tour boats cruising any of these waters.
The little (or fairy) penguin is the smallest of all the penguin family. The little penguin’s streamlined shape and efficient flippers enable it to catch prey in shallow short dives, typically between 10 and 30 metres. Little penguins can be seen in a number of places around Tasmania – including Bicheno, The Neck on Bruny Island, Low Head, Lillicoe Beach in Devonport, Bonnet Island near Strahan and in parts of Burnie and Stanley – although the majority (up to 95 per cent of the birds) live on offshore islands.
Tasmania has two species of whales in its waters – the southern right whale and the humpback whale. The southern right whale is among the rarest of whales, but since the end of commercial whaling its numbers have increased and whale sightings in Tasmanian waters, including Hobart's Derwent River, are on the rise. Southern right whales migrate north along the Tasmanian coast from June to September and return southward between September and late October. Humpback whales migrate northward past Tasmania to parts of mainland Australia between May and July and return southward along the Tasmanian coast between September and November. Most whale sightings occur on Tasmania's east coast. Frederick Henry Bay and Great Oyster Bay, and of course offshore cruising, are excellent vantage points for whale watching.
Platypuses are identified by their streamlined body, webbed feet (platypus is Latin for ‘flat foot’), broad tail and characteristic duck-like bill. Platypuses are found in slow-flowing streams, rivers and in lakes and dams. In Tasmania, platypuses are common in the lakes of the Tasmanian Central Highlands and in the rivers and streams of the south and north-west coasts. Tasmanian platypus (apart from those on King Island) are bigger than their mainland cousins.
Tasmania is a relatively small, mountainous island geographically isolated from mainland Australia. Its large variety of habitats has resulted in a diverse and unique array of plant species that includes flowering plants, conifers, mosses, liverworts, lichens, fungi and algae. In Tasmania you'll find some of the most ancient plant species on Earth, the tallest flowering trees, the oldest plant clones and a high proportion of endemic species.
The Huon Pine is one of the slowest-growing and longest-living plants in the world. It can grow to an age of 3,000 years or more. Only the bristle-cone pine of North America lives longer. Huon pine is found in western Tasmania (not far from Strahan), on the Central Plateau and in the Huon Valley.
Decidous beech (Fagus)
Deciduous beech (Nothofagus gunii), or fagus, as it is best known, is endemic to Tasmania and is Australia's only deciduous tree. Fagus is a small tree, growing to two metres or less, and has a magnificent autumn display. Its leaves change from rust red through to brilliant gold during late April and May however the actual time of fagus colouring varies from year to year and between locations. It's best to check with a tour operator or national park office before you visit. Fagus grows in cool, damp places, so it's often best seen in the remote highlands.
Pandani is found only in Tasmania and is the largest heath plant in the world. Although it resembles its namesake, the pandanus palm of tropical and South-East Asia, the pandani is in no way related to it. In Tasmania, pandanis are found in sub-alpine plant communities. You can find enormous stands of pandanis around Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain.