Monday, March 9, 2009

Quick Visit to Tasmania

Tasmania, a large island south of mainland Australia and separated by the very rough Bass Strait, is so different from the rest of the country.  Not exactly mountainous but more like rolling hill country with lots of trees.  A very fertile landscape with  lovely reddish volcanic soil, it is good farming country.

After a very rough crossing, due to catching a storm, we landed at the small north coastal city of Burnie, with 20,000 of the friendliest people you have ever met.  The Mayor comes down to greet each cruise ship and the Town Council provides an all day bus service to take the passengers into their tiny town of which they are very proud.   Each passenger was given a Burnie pin as a momento and they could not have been better boosters for their small town.

Once a thriving industrial town with all the problems that entails the only industry left is a paper mill which employs a mere 250 today, instead of the 3000 it formerly did but it means that the pollution is gone and it is once again a pleasant place to live, according to all those we spoke with.  The wharf was covered with piles of wood chips and would you believe that the wood chips from Burnie are shipped to Japan and turned into pulp which is then shipped back and made into paper.   How daft is that but I suppose it must make economic sense to someone.

We spent the morning poking around the small town but in the afternoon we took a bus tour out to see some of the very unique Australian wildlife, in particular something I have never seen before even in a zoo, the Tasmanian Devil, which is the world's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, with the sharp teeth to go with it.     

The Wing's Wildlife Park is run by the Wing family, a fourth generation farming family in the area who along the way started to look after injured animals and now have one of Tasmania's largest wildlife parks.  Their aim is rehabilitation and breeding with the aim of returning the animals back to nature if at all possible.

Apart from the Tasmanian devils of which they had half a dozen or more, they had an assortment of wombats, bandicoots, ring tailed possums,  kangaroos and wallabies and two very sleepy koala bears which are not native to Tasmania.  Although there are over 200 species of eucalyptus trees in Australia koalas are very  specific about which ones they will eat and it took the Wing family a while to discover those in Tasmania which suited. 

They also had a wonderful collection of birds, including a wedge-tailed eagle, the largest bird of prey in Australia with a wingspan of up to two metres, along with many of the other unique Australian birds, like pink and grey galahs,  kookaburras, sulphur crested white cockatoos and beautifully coloured parrots. 

Another animal new to me was a Tasmanian spotted-tail quoll or Tiger cat, a small partly arboreal carniverous marsupial closely related to the Tasmanian devil.  They are mostly active around dusk and dawn so all one could see was a bundle of spotted fur curled up inside a log.

However we enjoyed the our visit to see some animals and birds we knew very well from our youth along with some we had never had the good fortune to see before.

We returned to the ship after a pleasant drive through some of the lovely farming countryside of Tasmania.


lady macleod said...

That is the largest rat I have ever seen, shudder!
That sounds a wonderful day. I love the part about the mayor greeting each ship and the town showing you all about. There are so many lovely people in the world aren't there? I love that.
Your adventures continue to entertain as I sit here and heal together like a
Frankenstein doll!

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Sounds like an interesting visit and a nice place.

If that is a Tasmanian devil, I thought it looked kind of cute...

Crushed said...

I'd never seen one before...

I remember reading that the last Marsupial Wolf (sometimes called the Marsupial Tiger) died in captivity in 1935, but no one noticed at the time that it was indeed, the last. It wasn't declared extinct until the eighties.

I'm guessing this is true because the 1950 edition of the Britannica still lists it as an existing species.

It sems to have been pretty much a larger, stripy version of the Tasmanian devil.

Marsupials are fascinating, simply due to the fact that they have evolved in parallel so many placental forms. The marsupial mouse, the marsupial mole, etc

Everything in Aus is so different from anywhere else really, in terms of narure.

jams o donnell said...

Sounds like a great cruise jmb. I heard that the Tasmanian Devils are in deep trouble from an epidemic?

Heart of Rachel said...

Sounds like a rewarding trip to Tasmania.

It's great that you had a chance to see some of the wildlife up close.

Gledwood said...

Oooo~~ is that really what a Tazzy Devil looks like? That seriously looks like my old next door neighbour's dog..(!)

Sean Jeating said...

And where's the photo you took of the Tasman Tiger, Mylady? :)
Lovely to read you have such a splendid time.

Ellee Seymour said...

I would love to visit Tasmania. And I've never seen a strange creature like that here in the UK.

It's true what Lady Macleod says about meeting nice people. That's what bloggers do too, isn't it?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I've never seen a pic of one before, either. Scary!