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A Natural Haven

Tasmania's national parks cover a diversity of unspoiled habitats and ecosystems with plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.

Geography

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Tasmania is the smallest state of the Commonwealth of Australia.

It is an island about 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of the state of Victoria, across Bass Strait.

Tasmania lies between latitudes 40 degrees and 44 degrees south, and between longitudes 143 degrees and 149 degrees east.

It has many offshore islands, including Macquarie Island, which lies close to the point 54 degrees south, 159 degrees east. It is estimated that Tasmania includes 334 islands.

History

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Twelve thousand years ago the sea level was rising as the world’s most recent period of global glaciation eased. The land mass now known as Tasmania was cut off and the Aboriginal people living there were isolated. They shared many traits with Australian mainland Aboriginal people but also developed physically and culturally into a distinctive population.

The Tasmanians were hunters and gatherers. They made tools and containers from wood, bone, stone, seaweed, bark, grass and sinew. They managed their environment carefully, moving around their country to harvest seasonal food resources and using fire to maintain grasslands which supported an abundance of wallabies and kangaroos.

Coastal people relied on the sea for much of their diet. Scale fish were eaten in the distant past but apparently not since about 3,500 years ago; however, the women collected abalone, oysters, mussels and other shellfish. The remains of these make up enormous middens all around Tasmania’s coastline.

The Tasmanians made bark canoes to travel to offshore islands to harvest muttonbirds and seals during summer and autumn. The people camped in family groups, several of which formed a band, the land-holding group in Tasmanian society. Several bands spoke the same language and there were nine language groups / tribes in Tasmania at the time of European contact. Bands with reciprocal arrangements intermarried and shared resources.

Tasmanian Aboriginal people have fought to preserve their culture and heritage since European invasion.

To gain recognition as Tasmanian Aboriginals, today’s community has had to endure many hardships to be recognized as a race of people. Today, the Tasmanian Aboriginal community is being recognized as the appropriate people to manage the land, Aboriginal sites, artifacts and knowledge of their past.

Nature

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Tasmania - a Natural Haven
Tasmania’s isolation from mainland Australia has ensured the survival of many plants, animals and birds that are rare, or even extinct, elsewhere in the country. Visitors are often surprised at how accessible Tasmania’s native wildlife is. In many areas on even a short bushwalk you can come across a pademelon, wombat or wallaby.

If you are lucky you will see the one of the most endangered birds, the 40-spotted pardalote - Maria and Bruny islands are their preferred environments. Of the many birds that make Tasmania their home 12 are endemic.

Many of the animals are nocturnal, so your best chance of spotting one is in the evening. Because many of the animals are active at night, Tasmanian’s ask all visitors to take particular care when driving at dusk or after dark.

There are 33 native terrestrial and 41 marine mammals in Tasmania.

Tasmania's Sea Life
Tasmania's marine animals are among its most impressive wildlife, ranging from magnificent southern right whales surging past the east coast to delicate sea dragons drifting near forests of giant kelp. You can cruise beside some of the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere in search of seals, dolphins and albatrosses. But even many easily accessible beaches offer up their secrets at dusk, as little penguins waddle in from the ocean beneath clouds of shearwaters returning to their burrows.

Because the oceans are still clean "forests" of giant kelp - the fastest growing plant in the world - are found off the east coast; perfect for diving.

Tasmania's Rare Plants
Tasmania is home to living dinosaurs – plants that date back to the Gondwana super-continent more than 95 million years ago – and trees so tall they appear to touch the sky. Trees such as Huon, Celery Top and King Billy pine are found nowhere else in the world.

Tasmania is home to more than 2,000 species of native Australian flowering plants, and more than 200 of them are found only in Tasmania. Many - such as the Huon pine, fagus (deciduous beech) and Kings lomatia - are Gondwanan relicts that date back to the super-continent formed by Antarctica, South America, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Today you can see evidence of Tasmania's Gondwanan heritage in the dolerite Organ Pipes on Mount Wellington, the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park.

There are also plants that arrived more recently - cottage gardens, giant oaks and elms planted by European settlers. You can visit dozens of gardens around the Island.