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Quokka Facts

Marsupials are fascinating animals with one exceptional feature. They are the only mammals who carry their young ones in special pouches. Quokkas are marsupials that are small in size and adorable to look at. They may look like giant rats if you happen to glance when they scurry around. But once looked at closely, their big noses and smiling mouths will make you crack into a smile as well! 

What do Quokkas look like?

Quokkas, also known as short-tailed scrub wallabies, are part of the macropod family. They are one of the smallest Wallaby species found in the world. They differ from other wallabies because of their short hind legs and tail. Wallabies are marsupial species that are smaller in size than kangaroos. 

Quokkas are like mini kangaroos, with round and compact bodies. They are covered with coarse and dense fur all over their body. The coat is brown or grey and becomes a lighter color on the underside. It also has tints of reddish color around the face and neck area. 

Their tail does not have as much fur as compared with the rest of the body. While most Wallabies use their tail as extra support for balance when they hop, quokkas do not do so. 

The Happiest Animal in the World

Quokkas are labeled as the happiest animals in the world. This is due to their docile and warm personality. They are friendly animals who do not seem to be afraid of humans and are, in fact, very used to everyone showering praises (and snacks) around them. 

Quokka Size

Quokkas are naturally small. They weigh from 2.5 kg to 5 kg. They measure around 40 to 53 cm, with their tail measuring only 25 to 30 cm long. The tail is round, small, and furless. It is considered to be on the smaller end for a macropod. They have a stocky and round build.

Along with their round body, their ears and snout are also rounded. Their snout has a black nose. The males are larger than the females. 

Quokka Scientific Classification

Quokkas come under the class Mammalia and the infraclass Marsupialia. They are classified under the order Diprotodontia and the family Macropodidae.

They belong to the genus Setonix and are known to be the only member under it. Their species is scientifically called Setonix brachyurus. They come from the same family that houses kangaroos and wallabies. All these animals come under the term macropods, which means large-footed. 

Where do Quokkas live?

Quokkas enjoyed a larger distribution in the past than in the present. They lived throughout the coastal regions of South-west Australia. Now they are found only in three areas. Australian Mainland, Rottnest Island, and Bald Island are the main areas where these marsupials are found.

There are few isolated groups of quokkas in the bushlands surrounding Perth on the mainland. In the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, a small group also co-exists with another endangered species, Gilbert’s potoroo. That is a protected area in the east of Albany. 

Quokkas are found more in island environments since they prefer living close to the water. They inhabit thick forests, open woodland, and edges of the swamp. 

Best Place to see Quokkas on Rottnest Island

The most popular place to see these cute animals is on Rottnest Island. The way the Island got its name is also because of these very animals. Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh visited the island in 1696. He mistook the quokkas there as giant rats and named the island Rattennest ( rats nest). The name was later changed to the present name, Rottnest. 

There are close to 10000 quokkas living on the island at present. The island has become a hotspot for taking a ‘quokka selfie’. People are allowed to watch the animals and take photos with them. The ones near the human settlements are used to humans, making them easier to deal with and manage.

What do Quokkas eat? 

Quokkas are herbivores. Their diet revolves around grasses, shrubs, and other plants. They eat tall grasses that make tunnels in the vegetation. They can also eat leaves, berries, and fruits whenever they see them. 

A remarkable feature about the quokka is that they can climb trees even though they browse for food on the ground. They can climb a good one meter up the tree. 

Feeding quokkas human food is not advised. Human food can harm them, causing malnutrition and dehydration. Quokkas need a lot of water, even when there is a shortage of fresh water on the island. 

Quokkas Special Talent

Quokkas keep surprising us with so many unique talents. They can swallow food without chewing and can do something called regurgitation. It is similar to what a cow does! They can bring back the undigested food out of the body in the form of cud. They then eat this cud. This ability allows them to survive for a few months without water.

Quokka Behaviour

Quokkas are amicable animals. True to their smile, they are docile and gentle. 

Quokka Personality Traits

The Quokka’s most recognized trait is their smile. It may look like they are always smiling, but it is just an action that helps them cool off. 

Quokkas are curious animals. Their lack of fear of humans is like two sides of a coin. They can fall sick from human food and catch diseases from humans themselves.  

Hopping Around

The light brown coat of the quokkas helps them to blend in with the grass and environment. The marsupials bind and hop alongside the ground. To search for food, they sit on their hind legs and look around. They even use their paws to search through the grass. Their short tail and strong back legs help them to hop quickly in case of danger.

Avid Tree Climbers

Quokkas usually hop on the ground, but they can climb trees as well. They climb one meter long trees when they are looking for food. They only do so when they don’t find any food on the ground.

Sociable and Amicable 

They are indeed peaceful and social animals. They live in large family groups with 150 at once and are dominated by males. Even though the colonies share the living space, there can be fights amongst them as well. Hot days can make males fight for the coolest and sheltered area. Males also fight over females. 

Night Dwellers

Quokkas are crepuscular animals. Crepuscular means being active during the twilight. These animals are active during dawn, dusk, and night. They go out of their dens at night and search for food also. Their nocturnal nature helps them avoid predators as well. During the day, they rest under trees from the hot sun.

The quokkas residing on Rottnest Island come out during the day as well. They do so, hoping to get some treats from the humans. 

Breeding in Quokkas

Reproduction in quokkas happens the whole year on the mainland. But on Rottnest Island, breeding occurs in the cooler months of January to March. The gestation period is only for a month and after the baby quokka is born. The female quokka gives birth to only one baby at a time.

The female quokka chooses the male to mate with. The female runs away if she does not like the male and does not want to mate.

The quokkas yet surprise us by the fact that they mate again immediately after the birth of the baby quokka. The new embryo develops only if the first joey passes away. This is called embryonic diapause.

Baby Quokka a.k.a Joeys

Baby quokkas are called a ‘joey’. They are born tiny, blind, and pink. After they are born, they crawl to their mother’s pouch and stay there for around six months. After that period, they leave the pouch and explore the area. Quokkas reach sexual maturity by the end of one year.  

Quokka Predators and Defenses

Quokkas are prey to dingoes and birds. Dogs, cats, feral pigs, and foxes have led to a decrease in the population of these marsupials. 

Quokkas use their forelimbs and their claws to defend themselves from predators. The sharp five clawed fingers help them fight, climb, pull down branches and make tunnels in the grasses. The tunnels are used as a means to escape. 

Do Quokkas throw their babies at predators?

Not everything about the quokkas is cute and friendly. The quokkas abandon their baby in times of extreme danger. The females do not throw their babies away, but they expel the joey from the pouch. The joey falls onto the ground and makes a squealing sound that attracts the predator. The shift of attention gives the female enough time to get away to safety. This may seem heartless and cruel for the female quokkas to do, but they prioritize their lives over the baby’s. 

How long do Quokkas live?

Quokkas have a lifespan of up to 10 years when in the wild.

Are Quokkas Endangered ?

Yes! Quokkas are an endangered species. They are vulnerable due to their declining populations. To a certain extent, it is because of a loss of habitat from logging and human development.

Threats to Quokkas

Quokkas are most vulnerable on the mainland. Due to the arrival of the Dingo and European Red Fox, their numbers have suffered greatly. Other threats include dogs and cats. They, too, have significantly contributed to reducing their numbers.

On the island Rottnest, they are less prone to danger. This is because the island is free of such threats. Generally speaking, frequent human visits to the islands are having an impact on the Quokka population. Apart from the development of land, humans have also been killing Quokkas out of cruelty.

Quokkas are also prone to developing muscular dystrophy. It is a disease where muscles are damaged and weakened. This can render the quokka unfit to survive, leading to death.

Interesting Facts about Quokkas

  • Known for the famous #QuokkaSelfies trend, Quokkas are popular on social media.
  • Touching a quokka is out of the question as it can harm humans violently. 
  • Unlike kangaroos, they are not territorial and happily share their belongings.
  • They treat humans as entertainment subjects!

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