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13 Quokka Facts About The Happiest Marsupial

The smiling quokkas are one of the happiest animals on earth. These Australian marsupials have gained fame for their friendly nature and fearlessness towards humans. You'll learn plenty about them with our quokka facts if you haven't heard of them.

More than their friendly nature, there's so much more to discover. We'll explore their herbivorous diet, excellent climbing skills, non-territorial behavior, and intriguing reproductive habits. So get ready for the top quokka facts that will make you smile.

Keen to learn more about other Australian marsupials? Take advantage of some intriguing facts about koalas and kangaroos.

Summary: Essential Quokka Facts

Quokka Profile
Scientific Name:Setonix brachyurus
Physical Characteristics
Size:40 to 90 cm, including tail
Weight:2.5 to 5 kgb
Distinctive features:Small wallaby-like build, round ears and friendly visage
Habitat and Range
Primary Habitat:Small islands off the coast of Western Australia, particularly Rottnest Island and Bald Island
Range:Equatorial climates of Western Australia
Conservation Status
IUCN Status:Vulnerable
Primary threats:Predation, habitat destruction, human interaction
Conservation initiatives:Protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 of Western Australia

Quokka Q&A

These Are Some of the Most Common Questions People Ask About Quokkas with Answers:

  • What do Quokkas eat? - Primarily, they consume a variety of plants including grasses, leaves and bark.
  • Are Quokkas friendly? - Yes, they are known for their sociable nature and 'smiling' faces and they are unafraid of humans.
  • How long do Quokkas live? - In the wild, Quokkas may live up to 10 years.
  • How many Quokkas are left in the wild? - Approximately 8,000 to 12,000, most of which are on Rottnest Island.
  • How do Quokkas reproduce? - Reproduction is similar to other marsupials, with a gestation period of around a month, after which the underdeveloped joey climbs into the mother's pouch to continue growth.
  • Why do people take selfies with Quokkas? - Due to their friendly and approachable nature, as well as their 'smiling' appearance, tourists often take photos or 'selfies' with them.
  • Are Quokkas endangered? - Quokkas are not classed as endangered, rather, their status on the IUCN Red List is 'Vulnerable'.
  • Can Quokkas be pets? - No, it is illegal to have a Quokka as a pet. They are a protected species.

13 Detailed Quokka Facts You Might Not Know

smiling quokka
Photo by Tobias Fischer on Unsplash

1. They are the world’s happiest animals.

The quokka is a small marsupial native to southwestern Australia, measuring around 40-54 centimeters (16-21 inches) long and weighing approximately 2.5-5 kilograms (5.5-11 pounds). They're as big as a small cat. 

Furthermore, quokkas have round teddy bear-like faces with small, curved ears and a short, broad snout. They have dark, shiny eyes and a relatively short tail. Their adorable features contribute to their label as the happiest animals in the world.

One of the most distinctive features of the quokka is its "smiling" facial expression. This appearance is primarily due to the quokka's unique mouth shape and slightly upturned curve. Their mouth structure, with the positioning of their features and the shape of their snout, creates the illusion of a smile.

2. Australia's indigenous people named them.

quokka walking to camera
Photo by Tianlei Sun on Unsplash

Quokkas (Setonix brachyurus) are often called "short-tailed scrub wallabies" or "short-tailed pademelons." The name "quokka" comes from the Nyungar Aboriginal language, spoken by the Aboriginal people of southwestern Australia, where the quokka lives.

In the Nyungar language, "gaga" refers to the animal, and "quokka" is an Anglicized version of this name. The meaning of "quokka" in the Nyungar language is not clear or well-documented. However, the term might be associated with the sound or call the quokka makes, as the Nyungar people often named animals based on their vocalizations.

When early European settlers initially encountered quokkas, they mistakenly thought they were a type of wild cat, whereas others thought they were giant rats. Yet, the name "quokka" persisted for this wild animal.

3. Their primary habitats are Rottnest Island and Bald Island.

Quokkas live on Bald and Rottnest offshore islands in Western Australia. Rottnest Island, in particular, is the main stronghold for quokkas, hosting a substantial and protected population. A small population also lives in mainland Australia, specifically the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve.

Interestingly, an early Dutch visitor named the island Rottnest, or "rat's nest." These islands provide the ideal environment for these adorable marsupials, with dense vegetation, including shrubs, grasses, and low coastal heath.

4. They are in the same family as kangaroos.

two australian marsupials
Photo by Julieta Julieta on Unsplash

Did you know that quokkas are part of the Macropodidae family, which includes kangaroos, wallabies, and several other marsupials? Interestingly, they are also one of the smallest wallaby species in Australia.

While they may look quite different from their larger kangaroo relatives, they share some remarkable similarities. One of the critical similarities between quokkas and kangaroos is their unique reproductive system.

Both are marsupials, which means they give birth to relatively undeveloped young that develop inside a pouch. Female quokkas have a pocket on their belly where their tiny joeys find a cozy spot to grow and nurse until they're ready to face the world.

The quokka fact below mentions their plant-based diets. But did you know not all marsupials are herbivores? Find out more in our Tasmanian devil facts.

5. Quokkas are herbivores.

These smiling marsupials have a taste for green and leafy stuff, making them bona fide vegetarians. Quokkas eat leaves, grasses, stems, and bark, with a preference for young growth. They swallow food without chewing and regurgitate it to eat it again1.

They're not picky eaters, too. Whether tender leaves, nibbling on succulent grasses, or woody stems, quokkas know how to eat their fill. 

Their remarkable teeth are well-suited for their plant-based feasts. Quokkas have strong and sharp incisors that help them grip and tear through rigid plant material. Their molars are perfect for grinding down those fibrous leaves and stems, ensuring they extract as many nutrients as possible from their leafy meals.

Quokkas are also opportunistic eaters, taking advantage of available vegetation. However, remember that they can't eat human food as it can harm them. That's why the Australian Government forbids tourists from feeding them.

6. They spend the day sleeping.

quokka eating leaves
Photo by Mark Stoop on Unsplash

Quokkas are nocturnal creatures, seeking refuge in shaded areas or burrows to avoid the heat and conserve energy. As night falls, quokkas emerge from their resting places and embark on foraging expeditions, feeding on vegetation to sustain themselves. The cover of darkness protects them from diurnal predators. Additionally, quokkas ingeniously carve out paths and trails, serving as essential highways for their daily feeding routines and escaping predators.

The nocturnal lifestyle of quokkas also helps them conserve energy. By resting during the day and becoming active at night, they minimize exposure to harsh daytime conditions and allocate their energy resources more efficiently. This strategic behavior enables them to find food, regulate their body temperature, and guarantee survival in a challenging environment.

Quokkas' ability to adapt to the demands of their nocturnal lifestyle highlights their remarkable evolutionary adaptations. They have developed keen senses and an innate understanding of their surroundings, allowing them to navigate their habitat effectively and secure necessary resources.

7. They can climb trees.

Despite their compact and stocky build, these cute animals have serious climbing prowess that surprises onlookers. Quokkas live on the Australian mainland and use their strong legs and tails to climb small trees and shrubs for food.

While they may not be as agile as other arboreal creatures, quokkas can easily navigate their surroundings. Their strong hind limbs and sharp claws enable them to quickly scramble up trees, rocks, and other vertical surfaces. It's common to spot a quokka perched on a branch or explore their habitat's heights.

Although they have sharp claws, the quokka fact below encourages you to fly to Australia immediately.

8. Quokkas are not only adorable, but they are also friendly.

These charming marsupials have gained a reputation for their approachable and friendly nature, capturing the hearts of visitors lucky enough to encounter them. This innate friendliness sets them apart from other animals.

They are curious animals with a remarkable lack of fear or wariness toward humans. Visitors to Rottnest Island and other quokka habitats often have the unique opportunity to interact with these delightful creatures up close. However, like wild animals, a quokka bites when threatened.

Furthermore, their friendliness extends beyond humans. Quokkas are also social toward their kind, often forming small family groups (called clans). Unlike kangaroos and other wild animals, they don't fight over territory.

They communicate with their kin through vocalizations, body language, and scent markings, fostering community and camaraderie within their population.

9. Female quokkas usually give birth to one baby.

mother quokka and baby
Photo by Christine Mendoza on Unsplash

Next in our quokka facts is their reproductive habits. After a brief gestation period of just over a month, the female quokka gives birth to a relatively undeveloped baby quokka (called joey). These tiny joeys are only about the size of a jellybean, completely hairless, and blind. 

Quokka mothers have a specialized pouch on their bellies, similar to other marsupials. The joey instinctively crawls from the birth canal into the mother's pocket, attaches itself to a teat, and continues developing. The baby quokkas can stay with its mother for 6-7 months, leaving the pouch for good afterward.

10. They can survive long periods without food and water.

One of the most surprising facts about quokkas is their ability to withstand long periods without food or water. These resourceful creatures have evolved a unique adaptation that helps them sustain themselves during times of scarcity.

Quokkas store fat in their tails and hindquarters. Fat is an efficient energy source with many calories per unit of weight. These animals tap into their fat reserves when food resources become limited.

During food scarcity, quokkas rely on these fat reserves to provide the energy they need to survive. These fat stores serve as an energy reserve and help quokkas maintain their body temperature and overall health.

11. Quokkas are internet sensations.

Quokkas have become viral, with celebrities like Shawn Mendes, Chris Hemsworth, and Kelly Slater taking quokka selfies with the happiest animal. At the forefront of their internet fame is the hashtag #QuokkaSelfie.

This social media phenomenon has taken the online world by storm, with visitors to Rottnest Island and other quokka habitats eagerly snapping selfies with these adorable creatures. The quokka's friendly and approachable nature and endearing expression have made them the perfect companions for unforgettable photos.

The #QuokkaSelfie trend has brought joy to countless individuals and has played a significant role in raising awareness about these cute animals and their conservation needs. Social media platforms became effective tools for sharing images and stories, allowing people to connect with these creatures and appreciate the importance of protecting their fragile ecosystems. It also has shed light on the need for responsible tourism and ethical interactions with wildlife.

Did you know another marsupial has long been viral and become an idiom expression? Explore more in our opossum facts.

12. Quokkas might help cure muscular dystrophy

Quokkas have contributed to medical research, especially in the area of muscular dystrophy. They possess a similar genetic mutation to the one causing this human disease. This similarity allows scientists to study the disease's progression and potential treatments more effectively.

13. Quokkas are vulnerable species.

australian marsupial in the wild
Photo by Greg Schechter on Flickr CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

Quokkas, endangered and threatened, have been classified as such by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Habitat destruction and loss due to human activities like urban development, agriculture, and logging significantly contribute to their declining populations.

Additionally, introduced predators such as foxes and cats prey upon quokkas, exacerbating their decline. Invasive herbivores like rabbits and goats also compete for limited food resources. Efforts to control invasive species and protect their habitats will help quokkas survive long-term.

Moreover, Australian law strictly protects these species due to their vulnerable status. Falling under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act of 1950, these laws impose strict regulations on human interactions with quokkas.

Touching or feeding them without the necessary permit is considered illegal, highlighting the importance of responsible tourism and ecological preservation. In protecting the quokka population, habitat restoration also plays a pivotal role. People replant native vegetation to provide food and shelter and create wildlife corridors to connect fragmented habitats.

Moreover, collaboration between government agencies, non-profit groups, and local communities raises awareness and supports habitat restoration projects. Predator control measures are also essential, employing techniques like trapping, baiting, and building fences to protect quokkas from predators.

Monitoring their populations through camera traps, GPS tracking devices, and surveys enables researchers to assess their health and stability and take further action when necessary, ensuring the ongoing protection of these unique marsupials.

Remember to spread the marsupial love by sharing your favorite quokka facts.

Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with Q.

Chinny Verana is a degree-qualified marine biologist and researcher passionate about nature and conservation. Her expertise allows her to deeply understand the intricate relationships between marine life and their habitats.

Her unwavering love for the environment fuels her mission to create valuable content for TRVST, ensuring that readers are enlightened about the importance of biodiversity, sustainability, and conservation efforts.

Fact Checked By:
Mike Gomez, BA.

Photo by Mark Stoop on Unsplash
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