20 facts about the quokka, the happiest-looking animal in the world
by Gabrielle Lisa Collard
On an island paradise off the Australian coast lives an imposing colony of quokkas. This kangaroo cousin has become famous among internet users and Hollywood stars for its irresistible grin. Read on to learn more about the quokka, an adorable marsupial that’s always ready to smile for the camera!
The quokka is a marsupial from the Macropodidae family, to which animals like the kangaroo also belong. Mother quokkas have a ventral pouch, where babies spend their first months of life.
Quo . . . qua . . . what?
This cute critter’s name is pronounced “kwo-ka.”
Like a cat
The quokka is about the size of a house cat, weighing between 2.7 and 4.2 kg once it reaches adulthood. Quokkas can live up to 10 years.
Where do they live?
Quokkas are found on several small islands off the coast of Australia in the Indian Ocean, but the largest, and most famous, colony of jolly quokkas lives on Rottnest Island, near the city of Perth.
As the only land mammal on Rottnest Island apart from some 300 people, the quokka is king. In fact, the island is one of the rare places free of the threat of predators introduced by Europeans.
The herbivorous quokka eats fruits, vegetables, plants, leaves, and roots. Given its very dry environment, the food it consumes also provides the water it needs for hydration.
Quokkas were made for climbing trees. Their small size and sharp claws make it easy to move about on two or four legs, sometimes by jumping like a kangaroo.
Awake at night
Quokkas are nocturnal, sleeping in their nests all day and emerging only once night has fallen.
Quokkas go everywhere in a group. In fact, once evening falls, they set out in bands of over 100 to search for food.
Moms sometimes sacrifice their babies
Quokkas reproduce at 18 months of age. Gestation lasts about one month, after which baby quokkas spend their first 6 to 10 months of life in their mother’s pouch. However, quokka moms sometimes sacrifice their offspring by throwing them from their pouch to distract predators as they try to escape.
Have quokkas found the secret to happiness?
Why are quokkas so smiley? Are they really that happy? According to various experts, no. Their characteristic smile is simply a product of their facial features. They’re still delightful, though.
The friendliest marsupial
While they may not necessarily be happier than other animals, quokkas are curious and sociable. These friendly creatures have long understood that tourists are no threat. Quokkas readily approach people.
Watch your fingers!
Despite their mild temperament, quokkas are still wild animals that may bite when they sense danger. The Australian government, therefore, has banned visitors to Rottnest Island from touching or holding quokkas. Feeding them is also discouraged, but selfies, fortunately, are still allowed!
Somewhat like their raccoon cousins in faraway North America, quokkas have the regrettable habit of breaking into homes and restaurants at night to look for food. Daring and voracious, quokkas have a reputation for wreaking havoc wherever they go!
While quokkas are quite cute and tolerate the presence of humans, keeping them as pets is prohibited.
In 2012, the entire population of quokkas was estimated to be between 7,500 and 15,000. Sadly, their numbers are declining due to predators and the degradation of their natural habitat.
Save the quokkas!
Due to the risk of extinction, quokkas have been on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species for several years.
The internet’s favourite animal
Happily, the quokka’s charming smile and popularity have lately helped ensure the survival of its species. In recent years, following celebrity visits to snap selfies with quokkas, Rottnest Island tourism has increased by over 15 per cent. The island’s tourism office has even published a guide titled “How to take a quokkaselfie”on its website.
Quokkas & celebrities
Stars like Terri Hatcher, Chris Hemsworth, Margot Robbie, and Hugh Jackman have all travelled to Australia to take selfies with these smiling animals, which have become celebrities themselves on the internet.
Never enough quokkas!
Can’t wait to fill your news feed with irresistible grinning quokkas? The following Instagram accounts are brimming with these beaming beasties: @quokkahub, @daxon, @rottnestislandwa, and @instaquokka.