The Greater Blue Mountains Area may be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but it also harbors some of the rarest wildlife in the world.
Aerial view over Lake Burragorang [Photo by Roger Barnes]
Drive for less than two hours out of Sydney and you’d find yourself in a vastly different place than the one you just left behind. This is the Greater Blue Mountains Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has towering sandstone plateaus, hills covered with eucalypt forests, and majestic waterfalls. It’s also here that you’ll find the Three Sisters, which are three distinctive rock formations. According to Aboriginal legend, three sisters were turned into these rock formations in order to protect them from forbidden marriages. Legend has it that to this day, the women are still waiting for someone to come along and break the spell.
While this legend is certainly interesting, and the place itself is breathtaking, it’s the flora and fauna that’s the crowning glory of the area.
The Three Sisters [Photo by DooMMeeR]
Here, among the lush eucalypt forests, plateaus, and waterfalls, you’ll find about 400 species of animals and 1,500 species of plants. Some of the animal species are quite rare, and are considered to be threatened. The plants are remarkable as well. One tree species called the Wollemi pine, for example, was thought to be extinct until it was found in gorges in the Blue Mountains. The Wollemi pine is now one of the rarest species in the world today. The area also has a remarkable diversity of eucalypts, which makes it a “natural laboratory” for studying the plant species.
The pollen cone of a Wollemia nobilis, or Wollemi pine [Photo by Velella]
Among the 400 animal species are those that are significant to conservation efforts. These species include the koala, the yellow-bellied glider, the tiger quoll, and the long-nosed potoroo. Rare reptiles include the green and golden bell frog and the Blue Mountain water skink. There is also a significantly large population of the rockwarbler, as well as other birds such as diamond firetails, flame robins, and pilotbirds. There are also regular sightings of the regent honeyeater, an endangered species, in the area.
The area has expanded over the past few decades. There are now eight protected areas: Blue Mountains, Gardens of Stone, Kanangra-Boyd, the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve, Nattai, Thirlmere Lakes National Parks, Yengo, and Wollemi.
A tiger quoll [Photo by Michael J. Fromholtz]
According to UNESCO, these areas have had little to no human interventions. Most of the bushland is still almost pristine, which of course is impressive in this day and age. However, humans haven’t been entirely hands-off when it comes to these reserves. There is still a strong connection that exists between the area and various Aboriginal groups. There are occupation sites and rock art that serve as evidence of a long-standing relationship between the area and the people that have inhabited it for generations.
All areas designated as Heritage Sites are protected under Australian law. Thus, anything that will significantly impact these areas must be approved by the proper authorities. If these areas are altered without proper permission, there will be severe penalties under law. There is also an 86,200-mile buffer zone around the area. Thus, the Greater Blue Mountains Area is indeed quite well-protected.
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