The Australian state of Tasmania is made up of Tasmania Island (the 26th largest island in the world and home to Tasmania's capital city, Hobart) and surrounding islands including Cape Barren Island and King Island.
Located just south of Australia, Tasmania Island is separated from the mainland by the Bass Straight which is 149 miles (240 km) wide at its narrowest point.
For thousands of years Tasmania was a vast wilderness inhabited only by aborigines. Due to its separation from the mainland and the late settlement of European colonists approximately 200 years ago, Tasmania is home to a unique ecosystem featuring ancient forests and species of wildlife that live nowhere else on the planet.
The Tasmanian Wolf, also known as the Thylacine or the Tasmanian Tiger, has been extinct since the last one died in captivity in 1936. There have been many alleged sightings of this large marsupial though none have been officially confirmed. But the Tasmanian Devil, made popular by the Warner Brothers animated cartoon character, still roams the wilderness. It is a nocturnal, carnivorous marsupial about the size of a pit bull with an aggressive disposition and a territorial ferocity when protecting food, fighting for a mate or when confronted by another animal. Now classified as endangered due to the introduction of Asian dogs on the island and a rare contagious cancer discovered in the mid 1990s, animal health experts are working to save them.
Tasmania is also home to wombats, kangaroos, and platypuses, as well as over 260 species of birds, twelve of which are unique to Tasmania, including four species of honeyeaters and three warblers. Due to its grasslands, alpine heathlands (shrubby habitats), and temperate rainforests, many varieties of vegetation can be found including the Huon Pine, which is believed to be one of the tallest and oldest trees in the world.
The climate is generally cool and temperate, though the winter months between June and August bring rain as well as snow and sleet in the highlands with unpredictable winds. All the wonders of its wilderness have made Tasmania a tourist destination for sightseers and hikers. Trails through the forests and up into the Cradle Mountain National Park, cycling trips, and cruises on the Gordon River attract hundreds of thousands of adventurers each year.
(Map image courtesy of TheEmirr)
This article is from the March 9, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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