Tasmania is the last bastion of several mammals which were once widespread on the Australian mainland. These include all of the world’s remaining large predatory marsupials. Nowhere else is it possible to see together the Tasmanian devil, eastern quoll, spotted-tailed quoll and, perhaps, the largest of them all, the Tasmanian Tiger.
Two-thirds of Tasmania’s 33 mammal species are found in the World Heritage Area. Wallabies, possums and pademelons are commonly seen around the campgrounds, but other fascinating, though less well-known animals inhabit the region. One such creature, Tasmania’s freshwater shrimp, has been described as a living fossil. Found only in alpine tarns and streams, this species has remained virtually unchanged for over 200 million years! The orange-bellied parrot is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered birds. It breeds in the south-west of the World Heritage Area during the summer months and migrates to the mainland for the winter. Only about 200 individuals still exist.
The red-headed velvet worm, a species of peripatus, is only known to occur in one location – an area in the heart of the Southwest National Park. Living in rotting logs, the peripatus captures its prey by pinning it down with a fine stream of sticky glue which it fires from projections on either side of its head. The Pedra Branca skink, isolated since the last Ice Age, occurs only on a tiny rock island off the south coast of Tasmania. It survives solely on fish scraps dropped by nesting seabirds. Closely related endemic alpine skinks inhabit rugged peaks in the Word Heritage Area.