04 Jun Meeting the Quokka: 8 Facts About Western Australia’s Cutest Animal
One of the many joys of exploring new territories in Australia is being able to mingle with animals native only to certain wilderness areas. Very rare is it to have a wild animal feel so comfortable and non-threatened around humans, other than in zoos and sanctuaries, so we were over the moon to meet our new best fury friend: the quokka.
Our recent trip to Rottnest Island in Perth allowed us to spend a full day in the company of these cute creatures and grab a few selfies for the road. If you haven’t heard of the quokka before, it is a small type of marsupial with a round tummy. They are covered with short, coarse brown-grey fur and have tiny rounded ears and a black nose and would not look out of place in a Walt Disney film.
Here are a series of facts to introduce you to these little fellows:
Fact 1: Quokkas are not rats, prior to initial discovery:
When Willem de Vlamingh – an early Dutch visitor to the island in 1696 – mistook the marsupials for large rats he named the island “Rattennest” (Dutch for “Rat’s Nest”). The name was later adapted to Rottnest.
Fact 2: Quokkas are local of south and west Australia
Outside of Rottnest Island, quokkas are known to inhabit the mainland in Western Australia, as well as Bald Island, a small stretch of land to the southwest. Groups of quokkas can be found in territories, which are defended by dominant males.
Fact 3: Quokkas eat leaves and greens
Quokkas are herbivores who primarily feed at night. Their main sources of food are grass, and the leaves, stems, and bark of many plants in the wilderness. The quokka is capable of going without food for prolonged periods of time by living off the fat stored in their tails.
Fact 4: Quokkas breed seasonally
Adult quokkas will breed all year round on the mainland, but on islands such as Rottnest their breeding season is limited from January to August. After a month of gestation, the female gives birth, which is called a joey, same as the kangaroo. Females may give birth up to twice a year.
Fact 6: Quokkas are at risk of becoming endangered
Loss of habit is a major threat to the quokka’s existence, which is partly caused by human intervention such as logging. This has led to the IUCN Red List classifying the quokka as vulnerable and confirming their population on the decline. Other threats include foxes, dogs, and cats on the mainland, however on Rottnest and and other smaller islands, there are no natural predators.
Fact 7: Quokkas are the world’s happiest animal
The quokka is an extremely sociable animal whose personality is a mixture of curiosity, fearlessness, playfulness, making them generally very cute to humans. The natural expression on the face of a quokka even resembles a smile, which many zoologists have shrugged off as simply a coincidence, but we like to think its true!
Fact 8: The name quokka carries an indigenous meaning
The word “quokka” actually comes from the Aboriginal tongue of the local Nyungar people. This tribe of people still wander Australian lands today, predominantly within Noongar Country. The Nyungar people would refer to a quokka as “gwaga” but since the early European settlers were unfamiliar with the Nyungar language, they mistook this work for “quokka”.
We are happy to rate meeting the quokkas as one of our most enjoyable animal encounters in Australia. If you do have the opportunity to see them on Rottnest Island or the mainland, take measures to respect their personal space and avoid feeding them any foods or liquids other than fresh water.