The land Down Under has a plethora of fascinating and unique animals, but Western Australia is home to what, in my opinion is the cutest little charmer, the quokka.
A ‘what’, you say?
Quokkas are marsupials (like kangaroos and wallabies) found on offshore islands off Southern Western Australia, especially Rottnest and Bald Island. They look like a very fat little kangaroo with a short rat-like tail. Individuals tend to average about 3kg in weight and about 50cm in length.
They are herbivorous and eat mostly leaves, bark, grass, plants and seeds. Although they are not fussy eaters, they clearly have a delicate constitution as fines are strictly imposed on anyone found feeding quokkas. They get a lot of the moisture they need from their diet but interestingly, are also able to recycle a small amount of their body waste.
The average life span of a quokka is 10 years. They mature at 1-2 years old and live in patriarchal social groups of up to 150 individuals. That’s a pretty sociable little marsupial. Males are referred to as ‘boomers’, females ‘fliers’ and babies ‘joeys’. Just as kangaroos and wallabies do, the females suckle their young inside a pouch, where the joey spends most of its first 5 months.
Quokkas are most active nocturnally, but anyone who has been to Rottnest Island will have seen hundreds hopping around during the day, so it is hard to imagine a larger number of them being more active.
Try as you may, it is difficult to resist befriending these little critters as they have no fear of humans and happily potter around you, going about their business. One young whippersnapper even licked me.
If you have a bicycle you can take it over to Rottnest on the ferry. Otherwise you can hire one when you arrive. It is a traffic free island, apart from the occasional bus, so it is very easy and pleasant to explore on two wheels.
Get yourself over to Rottnest Island and make friends with quokkas. They are fantastic.
Written and contributed by Liv Gaunt