Listed among the greatest natural treasures on earth is an area of Tasmania, unique in being home to some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia, a diverse array of flora, some of the longest lived trees, some of the tallest flowering plants in the world and a place of survival for known threatened species. This region, these parks and reserves with their steep gorges, subjected to severe glaciation in the past, cover an area of over 1 million hectares and constitute one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world. Remains found in limestone caves attest to the human occupation of the area for more than 20,000 years. The region also holds a variety of historic remains which give us insight to the activities carried out by the early non-Aboriginal settlers of Tasmania. These sites include trappers’ huts, mines, tracks, tramways and long-abandoned settlements such as Adamsfield and Pillinger.

World Heritage - Caves

Caves found in Tasmania (photo by Carol Haberle)

What is World Heritage?

by Carol Haberle

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage is an area which covers over 1.4 million hectares, and combined makes up about 1/5 of the area of the island state of Tasmania. Protected here are vast tracts of wilderness which holds a wealth of natural and cultural heritage unique to Tasmania.

The area is formally recognised through World Heritage listing as being part of the natural and cultural heritage of the world community. On the basis of all four natural criteria and three cultural criteria, the core area was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982. At the time of listing, The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area satisfied more criteria than any other World Heritage property on Earth.

Due to worldwide concern over the fate of the Earth’s cultural and natural heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) established the Convention for the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage, or World Heritage Convention, as it is more commonly known, to address these concerns, and to provide a framework for the protection of this heritage. Coming into force in December 1975, the World Heritage Convention was adopted during the 17th Session of UNESCO during its General Conference in 1972. Australia became the seventh country to approve and give formal sanction to the Convention, in 1974. Today it is the world’s most signed environmental convention.

World Heritage - Tasmanian Wilderness

Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage (photo by Carol Haberle)

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area consists of a number of National Parks and other reserves in the south-west of the state, these being:

World Heritage - Liffey Falls

Liffey Falls State Reserve (photo by Carol Haberle)

Aboriginal Cultural Tradition

Here in the south-west, our native Aboriginal people developed a cultural tradition, a way of hunting which provided almost all of their dietary protein and fat, a specialised stone and bone toolkit that gave them a way of hunting and processing a single prey species, the Bennett’s Wallaby. Hidden deep within the limestone cave systems are rock art sites which have been dated back to the Pleistocene period. These ‘rock artworks’ are among the best preserved works of early art known. Caves and rock shelters, as well as many coastal middens and stone scatters show how the Aboriginal people lived in the area during the height of the last Ice Age. There is nowhere else in the world where such a variety of sites can be found in association with extensive alpine lake and river systems. These sites continue to be of great importance to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community today.

World Heritage - Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain: Tasmania (photo by Carol Haberle)

World Heritage - Cradle Mountain National Park

Cradle Mountain National Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

World Heritage: Ancient Flora, Landscapes, History

The Tasmanian Wilderness is one of the three largest temperate wilderness areas remaining in the Southern Hemisphere. Filled with unique wildlife, ancient plants, awe-inspiring landscapes and rich cultural heritage… these factors all contributed to the Tasmanian wilderness being a successful nomination for World Heritage listing. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is one of the greatest regions of cultural and natural heritage on Earth. The region is home to pristine habitats for a range of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world, a number of these animals have become extinct on mainland Australia in recent times, this area offers them a last refuge.

World Heritage - Devils Gullet State Reserve

Devil’s Gullet State Reserve (photo by Carol Haberle)

Refuge: Endemic and Endangered Wildlife

Revealing insight into the evolution of life on earth are some of the most unique animals in the world. Here in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area a refuge is found for many such species, freshwater fish known as galaxids, freshwater crayfish, velvet worms and amphipods. Species such as the velvet worms (Euperipatoides and Ooperipatellus spp.) have barely changed in the last half billion years, and are considered the ‘missing link’ between the annelids (worms) and the arthropods (crustaceans and insects). This wilderness is like a living museum of species which show Gondwanan origins.

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is home to three of the largest carnivorous marsupials in the world… the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), the spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) and eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus). The Tasmanian Devil and the Eastern Quoll now both being extinct in the wild on mainland Australia. The lizard fauna includes three separate species which show adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and the cooler climate of the Tasmanian Highlands, such as live-birth, storage of sperm within the female’s body over the winter months and great control over their body temperatures. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area acts not only as a refuge for these species, but also for many species that are threatened within Tasmania.

World Heritage - Tasmanian Devil

Endangered: Tasmanian Devil (photo by Carol Haberle)

So in closing, our Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area not only provides a refuge for some of the greatest natural treasures on earth, but also acts as a living museum for the generations to come, and for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people today and into the future, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area will give an insight into a heritage of people’s interaction with the land that extends back to around 45,000 years.

World Heritage - Franklin River Wild Rivers National Park

Wild Rivers National Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for us about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.

If you like this article about Tasmania, and you’d like to read more, just subscribe to our newsletter or join us on social media via FacebookTwitterPinterest or Instagram. If you really like this article, and you want others to see it, you can choose one of the “share” options below. We’d love that!

Comments relevant to this article are always most welcome, just leave a reply below. But first… please confirm the date of this article. Have you found something current, or is this ancient information? Either way, thanks for your company and come back again soon.