SPECIES: Setonix brachyurus — Quokka
The Quokka is thought to be the first Australian mammal ever seen by Europeans - mistaken for a wild cat, and later, for large rat. A Quokka is a small, herbivorous wallaby, with short ears, thick, course fur and a mouth set in a permanent smile which, over the last couple of years, has lead to selfies with Quokkas trending on the internet and social media. It has also earnt the Quokka the reputation of the World’s Happiest Animal! This attention has certainly helped to raise public interest and awarness of this vulnerable species.
Once widespread and abundant over mainland Australia, sadly it is now confined to the south-west of WA and both Rottnest and Bald Islands. The mainland population is crticial to the survival of the species due to the greater genetic diversity of these animals. A Quokka’s lifespan can be anywhere up to 10 years and they are considered quite a fertile species, in fact able to produce as many as 17 young in their lifetime. There is however, a high mortality rate of pouch young largely due to foxes, which has certainly been a reason for the lack of growth in the overall Quokka population. Another reason is likely to be that a joey will be ejected from a female’s pouch as a sacrifice or diversion if she is under threat from a predator. As well as predation, quokkas are threatened by habitat destruction and disease - toxoplasma - which some native animals are susceptible to.
Photo: Vicsandtheworld - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19…