Tasmania has many unique mammals found nowhere else in the world including many which have become extinct or are on the verge of extinction on mainland Australia. The lack of introduced predators and the relatively large amount of intact habitat on the island, make Tasmania a final refuge - a last chance - for many species. Even those that were ferociously hunted, such as Whales, have made a return to Tasmania in huge numbers.
Some, like the Tasmanian Devil and presumed extinct Tasmanian Tiger are well-known. Others, such as the Eastern Quoll, Tasmanian Pademelon and Bettong are less well-known, but equally fascinating.
Like most of Australia's mammals, the Tasmanian mammal fauna comprises many marsupials, or pouched mammals. Marsupials are remarkable for their method of reproduction, such as the production of very tiny young which complete their development in a pouch.
Tasmania also has the two species of Monotreme – the Platypus and the Short-beaked Echidna, both of which are as extraordinary to see as they are to read about.
There are 33 native terrestrial and 41 marine mammals which are known to occur in Tasmania. Many, like the Tasmanian Pademelon, the Wombat and the Wallaby can be easily seen in the wild as you travel around, if you know where to look and what you are looking for. One of the top wildlife sanctuaries is a great starting point to learn about the animals and get what I refer to as ‘wombat vision’.
Others species are more elusive to the uninitiated although not necessarily any less abundant, but Tasmania has some of the finest wildlife guides in the world and for those with a yearning to see a particular species, or several, it can be more or less guaranteed – unlike many other wildlife destinations where it is as much about luck as skill.
The Tasmanian Devil, although a marsupial, deserves a special section of its own here, due to its tragic fall in numbers due to the Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Much maligned through ignorance, it is one of the most remarkable and endearing of creatures and a sighting in the wild is one of the world’s greatest experiences.
Finally, a word on the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine, supposedly but never conclusively proven extinct. Of the many wildlife experts I have spent time with, almost all will swear it still existed well into the mid to late Nineties. Several are quite sure that it still exists in remote parts of Tasmania. My personal view is that it is very likely still out there, but regardless of the truth, there is no greater experience than to travel around the spectacular wilds of Tasmania under the guidance of the island’s top wildlife experts keeping eyes and ears open in the hope of a chance sighting.
Tasmania is a fantastic destination in which to photograph wildlife. For a stunning array of images taken by one of the world's top wildlife photographers, Will Burrard-Lucas, visit his website and view his gallery of Tasmanian images.
Tasmanian Odyssey has worked closely with BBC Wildlife Magazine to produce their new Tasmanian Wildlife Guide to Tasmania, which you can view or download as a pdf here