Facts about Quokkas

We found 25 facts about Quokkas

The world’s happiest animal

Quokkas are famous for their “smile.” These small marsupials inhabit certain parts of Australia and have become somewhat of a world phenomenon. Ever since the 2010s, masses of tourists travel to their habitats, and eagerly photograph their “smiley faces”. Their particular ability to always look good in a selfie made them a worldwide sensation.

Quokka (Setonix brachyurus), also called a short-tailed scrub wallaby, is a marsupial of the Setonix genus.
It belongs to the macropod family and is the only representative of the Setonix genus.
“Quokka” derives from a Nyungar word “gwaga”, or “kwaka.”
Nyungar is an Australian Aboriginal language, spoken mainly by the Noongar community.
Quokkas are native to Western Australia.
They inhabit small islands of the Western Australia coasts, particularly Bald Island, and Rottnest Island, and the south western parts of the mainland.
Rottnest Island owes its name to the population of quokkas.
Willem de Vlamingh, captain of the Dutch fleet, upon arriving on the island in 1696, thought quokkas were enormous rats. He then called the place ‘t Eylandt ’t Rottenest, meaning “Rats’ Nest Island.”
The population of quokkas on Rottnest Island is the largest.
Around 10,000 quokkas live there today.
Quokkas are relatively small for macropods.
They grow up to 40 to 55 centimeters long, and their weight ranges from 2,5 to 5 kg. Their tails reach up to 30 centimeters. They manifest sexual dimorphism—males are bigger and heavier than females.
Quokkas are adapted for arboreal locomotion.
Initially, their musculoskeletal system was adapted for terrestrial bipedal saltation, common among marsupials. They are capable of climbing trees up to 1,5 meters.
Quokkas are nocturnal.
They sleep during the day, hidden under prickly Acanthocarpus plants, endemic to Western Australia. At dusk, they venture for food, and to mate.
The average lifespan of a quokka is approximately 10 years in the wild, and up to about 15 years in captivity.
Quokkas can be found in various Australian zoos, including Sydney Zoo, and Perth Zoo.
Quokkas’ breeding season depends on their habitat.
The breeding season is shorter on Rottnest Island and lasts from January to August. On the mainland, however, quokkas can breed throughout all year.
Their breeding capability begins at 18 months of age.
Quokkas give birth twice a year, single joey at a time.
A joey is born after a month of gestation. The tiny youngster resides in mother’s pouch for about six months. Upon leaving the pouch, joey nourishes with mother’s milk for another two months, after which it becomes fully capable of living on its own.

Quokkas birth up to 17 joeys in their lifespan.
Quokkas are capable of embryonic diapause.
Delayed implantation means that the embryonic blastocyst doesn’t implant in the uterus straight away, but stays dormant. Quokkas use it to determine whether there are suitable conditions to have a baby, or whether their current joey survives.
Female quokkas developed a rather drastic survival instinct.
During an escape from a predator, a female quokka can drop joey carried in her pouch, so it attracts the predator with squeaking noises while she escapes.
Female quokka's body can determine whether her offspring survived the encounter with a predator.
If not, the dormant embryo clambers into her pouch, and another joey is born a month after. In the case of the first joey’s survival, the embryo disintegrates after five months.
Quokkas are herbivorous.
They eat various types of vegetation, including grasses, leaves, stems, and bark. A recent study indicates they are particularly fond of flowering plants of the genus Guichenotia.
They can survive without food and water for long periods of time.
To do so, they rely on fat stored in their tails.
Quokkas are largely solitary.
They tend to keep apart from themselves, forming groups for survival purposes.
Male quokkas fight for dominance and form a hierarchy.
It is the largest and heaviest of males that always gets the best shady spot to rest during the day, and has more access to females.
Quokkas can develop muscular dystrophy, a disease weakening their muscles.
Even though quokkas are approachable and friendly, they will not hesitate to bite if feeling threatened.
Usually, the ones that get bitten are the children.
Quokkas are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Their population systematically declines, mainly due to the loss of habitat as a result of logging. Their population on the mainland is also constantly being reduced by foxes, dogs, and cats. Fortunately, quokkas living on the islands do not have natural predators.
There are approximately 20,000 quokkas left in the world.
Their population was decimated during a wildfire in Western Australia in 2015.
It is illegal to keep quokka as a pet.
They are a protected species.
Australian law is very strict with human-quokkas interactions.
They are not to be petted, cuddled, hugged, or fed. There was a case of a tourist who threw a quokka off a boat to see if it could swim. Although quokkas do swim, the man was jailed.
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