The quokka is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat.
The scientific name of the quokka is Setonix brachyurus.
This animal is the only member of the genus Setonix.
Quokkas are live on some smaller islands off the coast of Western Australia, particularly Rottnest Island, just off Perth, and also Bald Island near Albany. They also live on the mainland in Western Australia.
They are found in a variety of habitats ranging from semi-arid scrub to cultivated gardens.
The lifespan of a quokka is about 10 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
The quokka weighs 2.5 to 5 kilograms (5.5 to 11 pounds) and is 40 to 54 centimeters (16 to 21 inches) long with a 25-to-30-centimeter (9.8 to 11.8 inches) -long tail, which is quite short for a macropod.
It has a solid build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head. It looks like a very small, fat kangaroo.
The quokka has rough fur which is a brown color, fading to pale brown underneath.
Quokkas have a happy, genial expression to their face. While it is easy to think that these animals are just super friendly, it is actually due to evolution. Like canines, quokkas’ mouths open slightly to pant allowing them to cool themselves. When they’re happy and hot (which is quite often) they seem like they are smiling.
The fact that quokkas are trusting, gentle, and lovable makes their expression easier to believe. You should be careful though, because they are still wild animals and do have sharp claws and teeth that they will use if they feel threatened.
The quokka is often referred to as “the happiest animal in the world” by humans.
Like most macropods, quokkas eat many types of vegetation, including grasses and leaves.
Quokkas are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are active during the night when it’s cooler. They can often be found napping in the shade during the day.
Their sense of color vision is developed selectively among marsupials. Unlike wallabies, quokkas have color vision. This is likely to help the species spot their predators.
The quokka moves in the same way as a kangaroo, using both small and large hops.
Quokkas creates tunnels that they use as runways through the dense vegetation, which they are then able to hop extremely fast along when threatened.
Quokkas are social and friendly animals that live in family like groups. They usually live in family groups from around 20 to 150 quokkas.
It is typically the female quokkas who choose which male they mate with. After a month of gestation, females give birth to a single baby called a joey. Females can give birth twice a year and produce approximately seventeen joeys during their lifespan. The joey lives in its mother’s pouch for six months. Once it leaves the pouch, the joey relies on its mother for milk for two more months and is fully weaned approximately eight months after birth.
The mainland populations are threatened by the introduced European red fox. Also, these animals are prey to domesticated cats and dogs, as well as wild birds of prey and dingoes. The island populations are free of these predators.
The IUCN Red List classifies the quokka as vulnerable due to declining populations and loss of habitat from logging and development.
The word quokka is derived from a Nyungar word, which was probably gwaga.
The quokka was one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europens. The Dutch sailor, Samuel Volckertzoon wrote about seeing a “a wild cat” on Rottnest Island in 1658. In 1696, Willem de Vlamingh thought they were rats and named the island “Rottenest”, Dutch for “rat nest”.
Quokkas are not scared of people, so you are able to get quite close to them, particularly on Rottnest Island. It is against the law on Rottnest Island to handle or touch the animals in any way. A A$100 fine can be given by the Rottnest Island Authority for picking up a quokka. People can even be taken to court and get a fine of up to $1000. These fines have been used in some unusual cases where quokka have been hurt or killed by visitors to Rottnest.