10 Facts about the Quokka

22 March 2020

The quokka took over the internet at lightning speed when Roger Federer took a selfie with the cute animal. Soon Rottnest Island got a large stream of tourists who also tried to cash in on the quokka selfie. To get rid of rumors and misunderstandings about the happiest animal in the world I sum up the best facts about the quokka.

10. Quokkas or Camels?

In places where you may encounter the quokka, it is extremely dry. The water supply is not very abundant and the quokka is a genius in adapting to the climate. Quokkas can easily survive a month without water! The marsupials prefer to eat leaves from an Australian bush plant and this contains all the nutrients they need. Even if you’ll find the marsupials at puddles of water, that doesn’t mean they drink from it every day.

9. Quokkas are your best friend, sometimes

Quokkas aren’t afraid of people; on the contrary, over the years they’ve learned that people eat and drink a lot. If they see you, chances are realistic they’ll come by out of curiosity (or hunger and thirst) to see what you’ve brought. Quokkas also have no natural enemies, which probably explains their permanent smile on their faces.

It’s not all positive! If the tourists are getting on their nerves, then they’ll let our a big cry to tell you they’re sick and tired of it. Are you entering their personal zone? Don’t forget that marsupials are owners of very sharp claws that can hurt you very badly.

Don’t say I warned you!

rottnest island quokka selfie

8. Nocturnal

By nature, quokkas are nocturnal animals. Like their relatives, the kangaroo is most active when it’s fresh and dark. It’s because of the many years of tourism that they’ve mutually decided to set their alarm clock a little earlier so they can enjoy the delicious snacks that the tourists bring.

So when you arrive on Rottnest Island in the morning, there’s a good chance that they are still asleep. Don’t disturb their peace and quiet and leave them be. Later in the day they become active and social. Patience is a beautiful virtue!

7. Quokkas are the worst mothers

It sounds brutal, but it’s the truth. Quokkas have a very strange defense mechanism. The little animal shows its darkest side in times of panic and danger. When the quokka sees a predator nearby, it will sacrifice its own baby and throw it out of its pouch. The ‘joey’ will, of course, scream out cries of distress and the predator will be able to detect and eat the little quokka. Because of this strange tactic, the mother can escape peacefully.

So you can’t really call the quokka a hero.

rottnest island quokka

6. Quokkas have one home

Their rarity contributes to their legend. You won’t find a quokka just like that in Australia, you’ll have to make an effort… Or spend money. The quokka can only be found in Two Peoples Bay Reserve (the only place on the mainland), Bald Island and Rottnest Island. The latter is without a doubt the most popular place to meet the ‘happiest’ animal on earth.

Luckily I have already visited Rottnest Island twice, read on for the perfect daytrip.

5. Swallow and Digest

Not really lovers of the fine cuisine those quokkas. The cute creatures eats mostly vegetation and consume large chunks of green. Later, when they’re full, they take the time to enjoy the food, again. This way of eating can probably be explained that they also get their dose of water out of their food. It’s essential that they eat in this way in order to survive in times of extreme drought that Australia sometimes has to contend with.

4. Quokka or jail

There are very strict regulations on touching a quokka. Tourists have hardly any shame. For a nice picture many people go to extremes. You name it: lure with food, grab the quokka, give a drink, etc. If you get caught with such behaviour you will be fined for it. In Australia, the quokka is no laughing matter, you can even get a prison sentence!

rottnest island quokka

3. Rottnest – Quokka – ‘Rat-Nest’

One big misunderstanding is the naming of the quokka and the island of Rottnest. The Dutch sailor Samuel Volckertzoon was the first European to set foot on the island and saw the cuties for the first time. Samuel, however, thought the creatures looked more like rats than kangaroos and that’s where the name Rat – Nest comes from. For the English speaking people this is then quickly transformed into Rott-Nest.

‘Quokka’ comes from an Aboriginal language. The local tribe the ‘Nyungars’ called the marsupial ‘gwaga’. This term was also quickly deformed by the English speakers into the current ‘quokka’.

2. Quokkas are marsupials

Many think they look like rats, but Quokkas belong to the family of marsupials. They move like kangaroos and also carry their young in a pouch. Like kangaroos, it’s a social animal. They enjoy each other’s company and are certainly not shy to visit people. So if you go to Rottnest Island, Bald Island or Two Peoples Bay Reserve, be patient, they’ll probably come and say hello on their own terms!

rottnest island

1. Master Manipulator

Very cute, those quokkas, huh? But don’t be fooled. These critters are smarter than you think. They know perfectly well what kind of behavior the tourist wants for the “perfect” picture. They complete their role and with this strategy they hope to get food and drinks from tourists.

Again, it’s strictly forbidden to feed them so no matter how cute they are, don’t give them anything and don’t make them dependent on tourism.

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