Boodjamulla National Park

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Riversleigh World Heritage Area


one of the most important fossil sites in the world

Riversleigh World Heritage Area is one of the most important fossil sites in the world and contains fossils from the late Oligocene period, dating back 25 million years.

Located in the south-eastern section of the Boodjamulla National Park, Riversleigh is not only a significant fossil site in the world, but also the richest known fossil mammal deposit in Australia. It has revealed records of Gondwanan life forms which existed prior to the break-up of this ancient continent.

D Site was one of the first major fossil deposits found at Riversleigh and is the only publicly accessible part of this World Heritage Area.

Sir David Attenborough has described it as one of the five most important fossil deposits in the world.

In 1994 Riversleigh was designated a World Heritage Area in recognition of its value as a discovery site for many of Australia’s most extraordinary extinct megafaunal animals.

Riversleigh has the richest fossil mammal deposits in Australia and have generously contributed to the world’s knowledge of prehistoric mammal communities.

Since intense research began at Riversleigh in 1976, discoveries made there have trebled the number of Australian mammalian species older than two million years. Hundreds of new species have already been found at Riversleigh – some exquisitely preserved – with more being found every year.

Riversleigh’s environment has changed dramatically over time and understanding how these changes occurred and their influence on the animals and plants that lived here, will assist in managing this landscape into the future.

The Riversleigh World Heritage area provides a unique opportunity to understand and learn from the impacts of past climate change on Australia’s mammals. It is the only place in the world where we have a fossil record of rich fauna during and following a major climatic event – the Mid Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO). Studying this amazing resource can help develop strategies to mitigate climate change impacts, and potentially conserve species in the wet tropics and other parts of Australia. (Department of Environment, Science and Innovation)

Management of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh) is coordinated through a partnership between the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and the Waanyi People.

Video credit: Queensland Environment

The ancient and mysterious mega-fauna that once roamed Riversleigh (© Illustrations by Jane Jehne)

The Doomadgee Dancers welcomed in the 25th Anniversary of the Riversleigh World Heritage Listing.

Riversleigh lies within traditional Waanyi Country

The Waanyi people know this region as their spiritual and sacred Bujimala (Rainbow Serpent) country. This sacred Ancestral Being created many of the region’s striking landscape features. 

Archaeological deposits and artefacts in this area establish Aboriginal occupation to between 30,000 years before present, and today the Waanyi continue to feel a deep sense of responsibility for the safekeeping of this place. The Waanyi people’s connection to the landscape is maintained through cultural practice on their traditional homeland.

Further Information

To discover more about the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Area: