The Unique Wildlife of Tasmania, Australia’s Wildest Island


The stunning wilderness landscape of Tasmania supports an astonishing and highly diverse array of plant and animal life. Dedicated wildlife tours to this southern Australian state transport nature lovers to a unique place to encounter a host of equally fascinating endemic birds and mammals.

The Mammals of Tasmania

Many of the mammalian species here are marsupials – meaning they carry their young in a pouch. Some of them are endemic to the island state, including the ones below.

Sarcophilus harrisii, aka the Tasmanian Devil, was once widely distributed on the Australian mainland. This rather odd-looking marsupial has rat-like features and a squat, stocky body. It has rough black or brown fur and grows up to around 79cm in length and 12kg in weight. It has a very aggressive defensive fighting style, with extremely sharp teeth to back up its vocal snarling. It is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, feeding on fish, insects, birds and, quite often, carrion. Despite its ferocious behaviour, the animal is at risk of becoming extinct, with more than 60% of the decline in its population due to a highly transmissible deadly facial cancer.

The Eastern Quoll, Dasyurus viverrinus, is about the same size as a small domestic cat, growing to around 60cm in length (including the tail) and weighing up to 1.3kg. Their facial features resemble a rat or mouse more than a cat and they have a bushy tail that often sports a white tip. They are covered in a distinctive spotted fur, which can be anything from gingery-brown to black depending on the stage of their development. This species also formerly inhabited the mainland, but is believed to have died out there around the 1960s.

The Rufous-bellied Pademelon, Thylogale billardierii, is similar in appearance to a Wallaby and is even sometimes referred to as one. They are primarily nocturnal, spending the majority of the day under the cover of thick vegetation, coming out only to feed on native herbs and grasses when there is low light. Their fur can range from dark brown to grey or red, and the males, which are much larger than females, can reach up to 1.2m in length.   

The Eastern Bettong, Bettongia gaimadi, is, as the name suggests, now only found in the eastern regions of Tasmania. It is relatively small in stature, weighing up to around 2kg when fully grown. It has a very long tail, which measures the same as its body and head combined. It prefers the habitat of the grassy bushland and Eucalypt forests, and spends the greater part of daylight hours curled up in a nest, coming out at night to forage for food. Its diet consists of insects, roots, leaves and grasses.

Wildlife Tours to Australia’s Southernmost State

Wildlife tours to Australia’s southernmost state also afford the opportunity to encounter plenty of other iconic species, including Wombats, Echidnas, Wallabies, Fairy Penguins and Platypus, along with a plethora of native birdlife. Led by experienced and passionate naturalist guides, small group wildlife tours are the ideal way to ensure the best sightings and the most memorable experiences.

Author Plate Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in birds. With a passionate interest in rare avian species, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of flora and fauna in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.