The Tarkine region is home to some incredible and unique wildlife, much of which can be readily seen as you explore the area. But what you may not realise is that there are some elusive creatures that will be more of a challenge to spot because their numbers have sadly decreased to the point they have been classified as endangered. So keep your eyes peeled especially for these five species as you venture into the North-West and West Coast wilderness and who knows, you may even spot an “extinct” Tasmanian Tiger as you go…
The top 5 Tarkine endangered treasures
With fewer than 70 birds remaining in the wild, the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot is one of Australia’s most threatened bird species. Surviving only as a tiny, single population, their last known breeding site is at Melaleuca in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. After breeding, most of the population migrates across the Tarkine region and Bass Strait to spend the winter months on southern mainland Australia. Males are emerald/grassy green on their back, wings and flanks with a bright yellow chest, azure blue markings on their wings and brow, and a vivid orange patch on their belly. The female has a duller colouration, with less blue and has a smaller orange belly patch. They have a distinctive buzzing alarm call.
The Tasmanian devil’s spine-chilling screeches, black colour and reputed bad-temper led early European settlers to give the marsupial its name. Although only the size of a small dog, it can sound and look incredibly fierce. It is estimated that the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease has now affected populations over 65 percent of Tasmania and has spread as far west as Upper Natone and Surrey Hills. At present, no occurrence of the disease has been recorded in the high-density devil population of the Tarkine region. As you drive through the area you will often encounter ripple strips across the road, designed to scare the nocturnal scavengers away from passing traffic. Be especially aware of slowing down at dawn and dusk.
Giant Freshwater Crayfish
The Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish is the largest freshwater invertebrate in the world. The species is only found in Tasmania and is listed as endangered due to habitat loss and over fishing. It is also severely threatened by siltation and de-snagging of streams as decaying wood forms the favourite part of its diet. Individuals of over 5 kilograms in weight and over 80 centimetres long have been known in the past, but now, even individuals over 2 kilograms are rare. The species is mainly found in Tasmanian rivers flowing north into the Bass Strait (apart from the Tamar) as well as the Arthur River catchment.
Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle
The magnificent subspecies of the wedge tailed eagle, the largest and most familiar of all our raptors, is unfortunately classified as endangered. With only 200 to 230 breeding pairs left in the world threats to the species include trapping, shooting, traffic and powerlines, logging and wind farming. The Tasmanian subspecies is the country’s biggest with a wingspan that can reach 2.5 metres. A large, dark raptor with a pale bill and distinctive, long wedge-shaped tail, their habitat includes open plains, forests and mountainous country.
The swift parrot breeds only in Tasmania and is listed as endangered, with some indication that its population of less than 1000 breeding pairs may be continuing to decline. Bigger than a budgie but smaller than a rosella, it is green with red on the throat, chin and forehead. It also has red patches on its shoulders and under the wings. It has a blue crown and cheeks, blue on its wings and a long pointed tail. The female is slightly duller, with a creamy underwing bar. After the breeding season in February and March the entire population flies north, dispersing throughout Victoria and NSW.
For some of the best opportunities to discover these fascinating creatures in the wild, why not consult with local experts:
The Tarkine Wilderness Lodge, set on 200 acres of privately owned land at Meunna (about 1.5 hours drive from Devonport), offers overnight guests Nocturnal Tasmanian Devil Viewing in the comfort of their “Devil Hide”, with all proceeds going to the Save the Devil Program. They also have Escorted Rainforest Walks, Wildlife Encounters and even field days that can cater to photographers, painters, bird watchers and more. The hosts at the Tarkine lodge are experienced guides who can escort guests on a safe, yet breathtaking stroll through the largest temperate rainforests in the southern hemisphere, providing visitors with plenty of information on this 60 million year old forest home to many threatened and endangered species.
Tall Timbers Hotel in Smithton offers a range of tours such as helicopter flights and scenic tours, 4WD adventure tours, and Tarkine forest and wilderness experiences. One such tour gives visitors the opportunity to enter the Tarkine in search of one of Australia’s most iconic creatures, the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger. Although officially declared extinct in 1936 unconfirmed sightings continue, with the most reliable of these coming from the Tarkine region. Venture deep into the heart of ‘Tiger Country’ in the comfort and safety of a luxury 4-wheel-drive and an experienced guide will show you the Thylacine’s last known hiding spots and re-tell the tales from those who have been fortunate enough to have witnessed a Tassie Tiger in their lifetime.
Corinna Wilderness Experience, roughly 2.5 hours from Devonport, is located on the edge of the Tarkine and while it was once the site of a mining town it is now the perfect spot to base yourself for wildlife viewing. Freshwater crayfish, burrowing yabbies, large land snails and walking worms can be seen in the temperate rainforest. Mammals such as ringtail possums, Bennett’s wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils, spotted tail quolls and dusky antechinus can be found fossicking for food. Reptiles and amphibians such as the tiger snake, metallic skink and Tasmanian tree frog can also be found. Platypus frequent the Pieman River and its tributaries. About 20 bird species can be found in the rainforest including the black currawong, green rosella, olive whistler and grey goshawk. The rare and endangered orange bellied parrot can be found around Corinna, which also is home to many blue wrens. On the river, the white bellied sea eagles nest and often an azure kingfisher can be spotted