The Tasmanian Wilderness was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982 and extended in 1989, June 2010, June 2012 and again in June 2013.
The Tasmanian Wilderness was one of 15 World Heritage places included on the National Heritage List on 21 May 2007.
The Tasmanian Wilderness is one of the world’s largest temperate wilderness areas. It is a precious cultural landscape for Tasmanian Aboriginal people, who have lived there for at least 35,000 years. The World Heritage property encompasses more than 1,580,000 hectares, covering almost a quarter of the island state of Tasmania in Australia.
The latest State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, as requested by the World Heritage Committee, is now available.
- 2022 State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) with 2023 update
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2019
- Additional information on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2021
The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee considered the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness in 2021.
The full text of the decision of the World Heritage Committee is available on the UNESCO website – Decision: 44 COM 7B.75
Click an image for a larger view.
The Tasmanian Wilderness is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia. At approximately 1.6 million hectares it is one of the three largest temperate wilderness areas remaining in the Southern Hemisphere.
The region is home to some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia. It is renowned for its diversity of flora, and some of the longest lived trees and tallest flowering plants in the world grow in the area. The Tasmanian Wilderness is a stronghold for several animals that are either extinct or threatened on mainland Australia.
The Tasmanian Wilderness contains hundreds of archaeological sites, including many cave sites dating from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs. The earliest cave sites are evidence of what are currently understood to be the southern-most people in the world during the last glacial period, who were part of the forefront of the first expansion of modern humans across the globe.
Description of place
The rugged and spectacular landscapes of the Tasmanian Wilderness contain rocks from almost every geological period, the oldest being formed about 1,100 million years ago during the Precambrian period. Some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia and other spectacular karst landscapes are found here.
Due to the diversity of its vegetation the region is recognised as an International Centre for Plant Diversity by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The highly varied flora, ranging from open and closed forests through to buttongrass moorland and alpine communities, occurs in a unique mosaic of Antarctic and Australian elements. The Antarctic element consists of species descended from those present on the supercontinent Gondwana.
Some of the longest lived trees in the world such as Huon pines (Lagarostrobos) and other native conifers grow in the area. Nothofagus is an ancient plant genus of Gondwanan ancestry, represented in the area by N. cunninghamii and Australia's only winter deciduous tree, N. gunnii. Some of the tallest flowering plants in the world, Eucalyptus regnans, grow here. The area contains approximately 264, or 65 per cent, of Tasmania's endemic vascular plant species.
The fauna is also of global significance because it includes an unusually high proportion of endemic species and relict groups of ancient lineage. The diverse topography, geology, soils and vegetation, in association with harsh and variable climatic conditions, combine to create a wide array of animal habitats. Many groups of marsupials and burrowing freshwater crayfish have survived as relicts of the Gondwanan fauna.
The insularity of Tasmania, and of the Tasmanian Wilderness in particular, has contributed to its uniqueness. The area remains a stronghold for several animals such as the Tasmanian devil, Tasmanian pademelon, eastern quoll and ground parrot that are either extinct or threatened on mainland Australia. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is home to the last wild breeding population of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. There may be less than 50 Orange-bellied Parrots in the wild currently.
Fauna endemic to the region include the moss froglet, Pedra Branca skink, Pedder galaxias and invertebrate groups with a high proportion of species entirely or primarily restricted to the area, such as freshwater crayfish, mountain shrimps, stoneflies, caddisflies, landhoppers and harvestmen.
The Tasmanian Wilderness contains the world’s densest concentration of human occupation sites dating from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs, between approximately 35 000 and 12 000 years ago.
The region’s cave sites contain evidence of the hunting and gathering lifestyles of the people who occupied these high southern latitudes when the climate was much more variable, and at times much colder and drier, with glaciers flowing down from the nearby mountain ranges.
Some caves contain dense, well-preserved layers of animal bones, tools and hearths. Others contain early hand stencils.
The full number and significance of the archaeological sites within the Tasmanian Wilderness is the subject of ongoing study, which is expected to further illuminate the cultural heritage of the property.
Since inscription on the World Heritage List, the Tasmanian Wilderness has been managed under a partnership arrangement between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments which ensures the protection of its outstanding natural and cultural heritage. Day-to-day management of the area is the responsibility of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service in the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), although some smaller areas are managed by other entities, for example Hydro Tasmania, Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Bush Heritage Tasmania and TasNetworks. For more information visit the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.
World Heritage sites are places that are important to and belong to everyone, regardless of where they are located. They are an irreplaceable legacy that the global community wants to protect for the future.
The common feature of all properties inscribed on the World Heritage List is that they meet the requirement of Outstanding Universal Value. Outstanding Universal Value is defined as cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.
A Statement of Outstanding Universal Value is the official statement adopted by the World Heritage Committee identifying the criteria under which the property was inscribed, including the assessments of the conditions of integrity or authenticity, and of the protection and management in force. The primary purpose of a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value is to be the key reference for the future effective protection and management of the property. When the Tasmanian Wilderness was listed in 1982 a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value was not required.
The Australian Government is working with the Tasmanian Government and technical advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee (IUCN and ICOMOS) to develop the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value.
In the meantime examples of World Heritage values that contribute to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value are identified under each criterion below. These examples are illustrative of the World Heritage values of the property, and they do not necessarily constitute a comprehensive list of these values. Until the adoption of a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value the list should be used as a guide on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Additional information on the values of the 2013 extension is also available in the following fact sheet.
- Fact sheet - Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area - Frequently asked questions - Adjacent Landholders
The Tasmanian Wilderness is inscribed on the World Heritage List under four natural (vii, viii, ix and x) and three cultural (iii, iv, vi) criteria1. The criteria for assessing whether cultural and natural heritage values are of Outstanding Universal Value have evolved over time and the criteria against which the property was listed in 1982 and 1989 are not identical with the current criteria. However, the underlying concepts have remained stable.
The values listed below were developed using the 1981 and 1989 nominations for the property2. Consideration was also given to assessments and summaries of nominations by the advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee and reports to the World Heritage Expert Panel. The list was reviewed by the Australian chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the Australian Committee for International Union for Conservation of Nature and approved by the then Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the Hon Robert Hill in June 2000.
1The Tasmanian Wilderness was inscribed in 1982 under cultural criteria (iii), (iv) and (vi). The 1989 extension nomination was for cultural criteria (iii), (v) and (vi), but these were not endorsed by the World Heritage Committee. See page 26 of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) Management Plan 2016.
2Species’ scientific names were updated in August 2019 to reflect current correct taxonomy. For consistency, scientific names used in the nomination documents have been retained as synonyms in the values listed here.
The Tasmanian Wilderness is an outstanding example representing major stages of the earth's evolutionary history. The world heritage values include:
- geological, geomorphological and physiographic features, including:
- rock formations including Precambrian rocks and Cambrian rocks;
- Late Cambrian to Early Ordovician sequences of the Denison Range;
- fossiliferous Ordovician limestone;
- Permian-Triassic sediments and associated Jurassic dolerite intrusions;
- Darwin Crater and Lake Edgar fault;
- karst systems including glacio-karstic features;
- karst geomorphology and karst hydrology;
- glaciation, including glacial deposits of the Late Cainozoic, Permo-Carboniferous and Precambrian;
- extraglacial areas (eg solifluction sheets, block streams, rock glaciers, landslip deposits);
- periglaciation (e.g. Mt Rufus, Frenchman's Cap);
- soils (e.g. peatlands); and
- undisturbed river systems which show particular geomorphological processes;
- relict biota which show links to ancient Gondwanan biota including:
- endemic conifers (including the King Billy pine Athrotaxis selaginoides, the Huon pine Lagarostrobos franklinii and the genera Diselma, Microcachrys, Pherosphaera (syn. Microstrobos));
- plant species in the families Cunoniaceae, Escalloniaceae and Winteraceae;
- the plant genera Bellendena, Agastachys and Cenarrhenes in the Proteaceae;
- other plant genera with Gondwanan links (e.g. Eucryphia, Orites, Lomatia and Nothofagus);
- monotremes (e.g. platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus, short beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus);
- dasyurid species;
- parrots (e.g. orange-bellied parrot and the ground parrot);
- indigenous families of frogs with Gondwanan origins (e.g. Tasmanian froglet Crinia tasmaniensis (syn. Ranidella tasmaniensis), brown froglet Crinia signifera (syn. Ranidella signifera), Tasmanian tree frog Litoria burrowsae (syn. L. burrowsi), brown tree frog Litoria ewingi);
- invertebrate species in the genera Euperipatoides and Ooperipatellus;
- the Tasmanian cave spider (Hickmania troglodytes);
- aquatic insect groups with close affinities to groups found in South America, New Zealand and Southern Africa (e.g. dragonflies, chironomid midges, stoneflies, mayflies and caddisflies);
- crustaceans (e.g. Anaspidacea, Parastacidae, Phreatoicidae);
- primitive taxa showing links to fauna more ancient than Gondwana (e.g. Anaspids, Trogloneta (a mysmenid spider), species of alpine moths in the subfamily Archiearinae, species in the genus Sabatinca of the primitive lepidopteran sub-order Zeugloptera).
The Tasmanian Wilderness has outstanding examples representing significant ongoing geological processes and ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water and coastal ecosystems and communities, including:
- sites where processes of geomorphological and hydrological evolution are continuing in an uninterrupted natural condition (including karst formation, periglaciation which is continuing on some higher summits (e.g. on the Boomerang, Mount La Perouse, Mount Rufus, Frenchmans Cap), fluvial deposition, evolution of spectacular gorges, marine and aeolian deposition and erosion, and development of peat soils and blanket bogs);
- ecosystems which are relatively free of introduced plant and animal species;
- coastal plant communities free of exotic sand binding grasses which show natural processes of dune formation and erosion;
- undisturbed catchments, lakes and streams;
- alpine ecosystems with high levels of endemism;
- the unusual 'cushion plants' (bolster heaths) of the alpine ecosystems;
- ecological transitions from moorland to rainforest;
- pristine tall eucalypt forests;
- examples of active speciation in the genus Eucalyptus, including sites of:
- hybridisation and introgression;
- clinal variation (e.g. E. subcrenulata);
- habitat selection (e.g. E. gunnii); and
- transition zones which include genetic exchanges between Eucalyptus species;
- plant groups in which speciation is active (e.g. Gonocarpus, Ranunculus and Plantago);
- conifers of extreme longevity (including Huon pine, Pencil pine and King Billy pine);
- endemic members of large Australian plant families (e.g. heaths such as Richea pandanifolia, Richea scoparia, Dracophyllum minimum and Prionotes cerinthoides);
- endemic members of invertebrate groups;
- invertebrate species in isolated environments, especially mountain peaks, offshore islands and caves with high levels of genetic and phenotypic variation;
- invertebrates of unusually large size (e.g. the giant pandini moth - Proditrix nielseni, several species of Neanuridae, the brightly coloured stonefly - Eusthenia spectabilis);
- invertebrate groups which show extraordinary diversity (e.g. land flatworms, large amphipods, peripatus, stag beetles, stoneflies);
- skinks in the genus Carinascincus (syn. Niveoscincus, syn. Leiolopisma) which demonstrate adaptive radiation in alpine heaths and boulder fields on mountain ranges;
- examples of evolution in mainland mammals (e.g. sub-species of Bennett's wallaby - Macropus rufogriseus, swamp antechinus - Antechinus minimus, southern brown bandicoot - Isoodon obesulus, common wombat - Vombatus ursinus, common ringtail possum - Pseudocheirus peregrinus, common brushtail possum - Trichosurus vulpecula, eastern pygmy possum - Cercartetus nanus, the swamp rat - Rattus lutreolus) in many birds (e.g. the azure kingfisher - Alcedo azurea) and in island faunas;
- animal and bird species whose habitat elsewhere is under threat (e.g. the spotted-tail quoll Dasyurus maculatus, swamp antechinus Antechinus minimus, broad-toothed rat - Mastacomys fuscus and the ground parrot - Pezoporus wallicus); and
- the diversity of plant and animal species.
The landscape of the Tasmanian Wilderness has exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance and contains superlative natural phenomena including:
- viewfields and sites of exceptional natural beauty associated with:
- flowering heaths of the coastline;
- the south and south-west coasts comprising steep headlands interspersed with sweeping beaches, rocky coves and secluded inlets;
- eucalypt tall open forests including Eucalyptus regnans, the tallest flowering plant species in the world;
- rainforests framing undisturbed rivers;
- buttongrass, heath and moorland extending over vast plains;
- wind-pruned alpine vegetation;
- sheer quartzite or dolerite capped mountains (including Cradle Mountain, Frenchmans Cap, Federation Peak and Precipitous Bluff);
- deep, glacial lakes, tarns, cirques and pools throughout the ranges;
- the relatively undisturbed nature of the property;
- the scale of the undisturbed landscapes;
- the juxtaposition of different landscapes;
- the presence of unusual natural formations (e.g. particular types of karst features) and superlative examples of glacial landforms and other types of geomorphic features; and
- rare or unusual flora and fauna.
The ecosystems of the Tasmanian Wilderness contain important and significant natural habitats where threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation still survive, including:
- habitats important for endemic plant and animal taxa and taxa of conservation significance, including:
- rainforest communities;
- alpine communities;
- moorlands (e.g. in the far south-west);
- riparian and lacustrine communities (including meromictic lakes).
- habitats which are relatively undisturbed and of sufficient size to enable survival of taxa of conservation significance including endemic taxa;
- plant species of conservation significance
- animal species of conservation significance, such as:
- spotted-tail quoll Dasyurus maculatus;
- swamp antechinus Antechinus minimus
- broad-toothed rat Mastacomys fuscus
- ground parrot Pezoporus wallicus
- orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster
- Lake Pedder galaxias Galaxias pedderensis
- Pedra Branka skink Carinascincus palfreymani (syn. Niveoscincus palfreymani).
The Tasmanian Wilderness bears a unique and exceptional testimony to an ancient, ice age society, represented by:
- Pleistocene archaeological sites that are unique, of great antiquity and exceptional in nature, demonstrating the sequence of human occupation at high southern latitudes during the last ice age.
The Tasmanian Wilderness provides outstanding examples of a type of landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history. The world heritage values include:
- archaeological sites which provide important examples of the hunting and gathering way of life, showing how people practised this way of life over long time periods, during often extreme climatic conditions and in contexts where it came under the impact of irreversible socio-cultural and economic change.
The Tasmanian Wilderness is directly associated with events of outstanding universal significance linked to the adaptation and survival of human societies to glacial climatic cycles. The world heritage values include:
- archaeological sites including Pleistocene sites, which demonstrate the adaptation and survival of human societies to glacial climatic cycles and periods of long isolation from other communities (e.g. the human societies in this region were the most southerly known peoples on earth during the last ice age).
World Heritage listing information
Visit the UNESCO web site for official listing information on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area:
- World Heritage Place location/boundary plan (PDF 3.21 MB)
- Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan
- Notice of areas added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 2010, 2012 and 2013
- Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area – Frequently asked questions – Private Landholders
- Australian Heritage Database record - World Heritage List
- Databases and applications – Spatial data (in an ESRI shapefile format) for all of Australia’s World Heritage properties is held by the department
World Heritage Committee consideration of the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness
From time to time, the World Heritage Committee requests specific reports on the state of conservation of properties included on the World Heritage List. Australia has provided a number of state of conservation reports on the Tasmanian Wilderness since 2007.
- Additional information on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2021
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2019
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2017
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2016
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2015
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2012
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2010
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia) - 2008
- The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area State Party Report - 2007
Assessment of Aboriginal Cultural Values Project
Aboriginal Heritage of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA): a literature review and synthesis report, March 2017 is a review of the archaeological research that has been undertaken in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area over the last 35 years. It was commissioned in response to a request from the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in July 2016.
- Aboriginal Heritage of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA): a literature review and synthesis report
The Detailed Plan for a Comprehensive Cultural Assessment of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), November 2017 includes 10 proposed packages of work. This includes 6 proposed ‘understanding values’ packages that are designed to discover and better understand the Aboriginal cultural values of the TWWHA (and in particular those aspects that contribute to its Outstanding Universal Value). The proposed packages also include 4 proposed ‘managing values’ packages that are directed at improving the management and appreciation of Aboriginal cultural values. It too was commissioned in response to a request from the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in July 2016.
- Detailed Plan for a Comprehensive Cultural Assessment of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
2015 Reactive monitoring mission
In November 2015 experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) conducted a reactive monitoring mission to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The mission’s report was published on 20 March 2016.
The Australian and Tasmanian governments’ response to the mission report
- Monitoring mission report on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area endorses Australia's management efforts - media release 20 March 2016
The following maps show the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the extensions to the property.
- Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area boundary map (PDF 3.21 MB)
- Boundary map showing 2010, 2012 and 2013 extensions (PDF 3.49 MB)
- 15 detailed maps showing the 2013 boundary extension (PDF 45.12 MB)
The following documents were submitted to the World Heritage Committee for consideration at its 2014 meeting in Doha requesting a minor boundary modification to reduce the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
- Covering letter from Minister Hunt (PDF 185.93 KB)
- Proposal for a minor modification to the boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (PDF 272.21 KB)
- Map 1: Existing and proposed boundary (PDF 1.92 MB)
- Map 2: Proposed boundary (PDF 2.35 MB)
- Map 3: Proposed boundary with retained area (PDF 2.44 MB)
- Map 4: Proposed boundary relative to 2013 boundary (PDF 2.53 MB)
- Letter to the WHC from Minister Hunt (PDF 380.19 KB)
The World Heritage Committee did not support the Government’s request to reduce the area of the Tasmanian Wilderness. The Government has accepted the decision of the World Heritage Committee.
The information below was used by the World Heritage Committee and its members to make its decision to extend the boundary in June 2013.
- Dossier for the proposed boundary extension (PDF 7.24 MB)
- Map 1: Tasmanian Wilderness – Existing and Revised Boundary (PDF 3.58 MB)
- Map 2: Tasmanian Wilderness – Revised Boundary (PDF 3.67 MB)
- Supplementary information (PDF 3.89 MB)
- Map A: Tasmanian Wilderness – Formal Reserves within the Revised Boundary (PDF 3.62 MB)
- Map B: Giant Trees (PDF 2.09 MB)
- Map C: Tall Eucalypt Forests within WHA and Proposed Addition (PDF 3.57 MB)
- Map D: Tall Eucalypt Forests – connection and context across the WHA and Proposed Addition (PDF 5.21 MB)
The request for a minor boundary modification to increase the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area submitted to the World Heritage Committee in 2012 is available in Section 1.3 of the 2012 State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia).
The request for a minor boundary modification to increase the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area submitted to the World Heritage Committee in 2010 is available in Section 1.2 of the 2010 State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (Australia).
The request for an extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was submitted to the World Heritage Committee in 1989.
Nomination of the Tasmanian Wilderness by the Government of Australia for inclusion in the World Heritage List (PDF 7.93 MB)
The Tasmanian Wilderness was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982. The 1981 nomination document is available for download.
Nomination of Western Tasmania Wilderness National Parks by the Commonwealth of Australia for inclusion in the World Heritage List (PDF 5.32 MB)
National Heritage Listing information
Tasmanian Wilderness WHA Executive Officer
c/– Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service
GPO Box 1751
Hobart TAS 7001
Tel: 1300 827 727 – Monday to Friday (9am-4:30pm)