Kookoo for Quokkas! The Happiest Animal in the World

If you are on any social media platform, you may have seen a small animal posing with a huge smile on its face. These animals are called Quokkas and they have taken over social media with their friendly appearance and behavior. And, bonus points, they have been named the happiest animal in the world. This threatened species is fascinating not only because they are extremely friendly to humans and have adorable faces, but also because they are able to adapt to their surroundings like no other mammal.  

Quokka, scientifically known as Setonix brachyurus, is a small marsupial found in south-west Australia and on two islands near the mainland, Rottnest Island and Bald Island. These animals have small round bodies around 16”-20” long and have short, coarse, brown-gray colored fur. They often resemble a kangaroo or wallaby because Quokkas have a short tail, long black feet and black claws just like their larger friends. In 1696 a Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlamingh, actually mistook this animal for a large rat that was the size of a cat and originally named the island Rottenest Island. However, the name later turned into Rottnest Island.  

Quokkas used to live abundantly all throughout south-west Australia until larger  predators like dogs and foxes were introduced to the area and overtook the population. Today, they are found in great populations on Rottnest Island and Bald Island located just off the south-west mainland near Perth, because there are no predators on these islands and because of the Quokkas ability to adapt. These animals can be found living pretty much anywhere on these two islands; forests, open fields, swamps, and open woodland. However, anywhere surrounding fresh water is their preferred location.

These animals are very friendly and social creatures. Because of this, they like to live in small family groups normally dominated by the males. Quokkas are not territorial to the different species they live with in their habitat, which is another reason why people call these animals the happiest creatures on earth. Quokkas are nocturnal animals therefore they rest during the day in the shade and are active at nighttime searching for food to eat and potential mates.

Quokkas have an herbivorous diet, meaning they only eat plant matter. They typically munch on grasses and small plants but are also known to eat berries, fruits and leaves. Also, they climb very small trees to search for food. Quokkas also do not need to drink large amounts of water. Scientists have found that they can even go months without drinking.  

The Quokka breeding season occurs between the cooler months of January and March. Quokka females typically give birth to one joey, but there have been a few instances where Quokkas have given birth to twins. A typical gestation period is one month. After they are born, these marsupials crawl into their mother’s pouch to rest and feed for six months. After the six months, the joey emerges from its mother’s pouch and begins to explore its surroundings while still occasionally feeding off its mother’s milk. And just at a year and a half, Quokkas are ready to mate and reproduce.

Tourists, Development and Conservation
Even with the many tourists these animals are attracting, Quokkas are still thriving and  tourists are actually helping Quokkas live better and longer. The reason for this is unknown at the moment, but some speculate it is because of the social nature of the Quokka. However, too much of anything can be detrimental.  With more tourists coming to visit these islands, more development is being planned. The future development is the only real threat that could cause the Quokka to become endangered in the future. Thus, the Quokka has been placed on the Red List by the International Union of Concerned Scientists because of this threat. So often tourism can lead to the demise of various species.  We should research destinations before we go, look into any human activity which can be detrimental to local animals, and if need be, make the decision to admire these animals’ friendly faces from afar.

Sources: Animalia.bio, A-Z Animals, National Geographic