Quokka

Quokka

Short-tailed pademelon, Short-tailed wallaby

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Setonix brachyurus
Population size
7,850-17,150
Life Span
5-10 yrs
TOP SPEED
32 km/h
WEIGHT
2.5-5 kg
LENGTH
40-54 cm

Generally, the Quokka has a typical appearance for a wallaby: short, extremely coarse and thick fur, which is grey-brown overall with lighter under part; short tail, which is mostly without hair; and hair of its feet, which extend to the claws. Willem de Vlamingh, an early Dutch explorer, described this animal as 'a kind of rat, as big as a common cat'. The scientist first saw the Quokka on an island off the mouth of the Swan River, which he named after this animal - Rottnest (or 'rat nest') Island.

Distibution

This animal is endemic to Rottnest Island, located off Perth (Western Australia). The Quokkas also occur on the mainland, where the animals almost exclusively inhabit areas with dense vegetation around swamps, where they find shelter during hot days. The preferred environment of the Quokkas is humid areas with dense vegetation. However, they are able to live in different habitats, including seasonally arid and harsh environment of Rottnest Island.

Quokka habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These highly sociable and communicative animals gather into small family groups. The leader of a Quokka group is the dominant male. Quokkas are non-territorial: there have been known cases of up to 150 individuals having overlapping home ranges and, generally, sharing them without conflicts. However, they occasionally do engage in fights, especially to get the most sheltered spots during hot days. These nocturnal animals spend most of the hot days resting. They typically find shelter in shade of trees, and are known to use the same resting spot every day. They feed by night, browsing for food and moving through high grass in order to remain unspotted. To move around quickly, they usually hop on their hind legs. As opposed to kangaroos and large wallabies, Quokkas do not use their tail to support them when moving slowly. Being terrestrial animals, Quokkas, however, are capable of climbing up to 1.5 m when looking for food.

Diet and Nutrition

The diet of this herbivorous animal mainly consists of various grasses, growing along the tunnels they make through the dense vegetation. Quokkas also consume leaves and fruits. In addition, they can eat berries on occasion.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
January-March
PREGNANCY DURATION
1 month
BABY CARRYING
1 joey
INDEPENDENT AGE
38-40 weeks
FEMALE NAME
jill, roo
MALE NAME
jack, boomer
BABY NAME
joey

Quokkas are likely to have polygynous mating system, where each male mates with a number of females. The breeding season takes place during the cooler months, in January - March. Gestation period lasts for one month, yielding a single baby, which lives in the pouch of its mother for up to 30 weeks. After that, the joey begins to come out of the pouch and gradually starts exploring its surroundings. However, the young remains close to its mother and keeps on feeding upon maternal milk for over 8 - 10 weeks. Sexual maturity is reached by one year old.

Population

Population threats

Presently, the primary concern to the population of this species is recreational development of Rottnest Island, which is the main range of the Quokka. As a result, the animal suffers from loss of its natural habitat as well as the risk of catching a human disease.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Quokka is estimated to be 7,850-17,150 mature individuals, including specific populations in following areas: Rottnest Island - 4,000-8,000 animals; Bald Island - 500-2,000 Quokkas; Northern Jarrah forest - 150 animals; Southern forests - 2,000-5,000 individuals; South Coast - 1,200-2,000 animals. Currently, Quokkas are classified as Vulnerable (VU), and their numbers are decreasing.

Ecological niche

The Quokka serve as prey for the red foxes and dingoes, their natural predator.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Quokkas are able to reuse some of their waste products, due to which the animals can live without water for long periods of time. However, they are known to dig water holes and are capable of getting water from cacti and other succulent plants.
  • According to a research, Quokka is capable of bearing high temperatures of up to 44°C (4) due to its thermoregulatory abilities. However, the possibility of dehydration is not ruled out.
  • These animals are not at all afraid of humans. Moreover, they are known to approach people and frequent cafes and campsites to get free meals.
  • Quokka has a rather charming appearance, which is hard to resists. Due to the shape and structure of its mouth, the animal seems to smile, which makes the Quokka appear super-happy. When it gets hot, the animal opens its mouth, panting like a dog and looking even happier!
  • It is illegal to make pets out of Quokkas. Moreover, in spite of its loveliness, the animal is strictly prohibited to touch. Visitors are usually allowed to get near Quokkas in special reserves, where they can feast their eyes on the animals as well as take pictures. In a case of touching a Quokka, the violator may be fined up to Aus$2,000 and face prosecution. However, it's not clear whether this law is adopted to protect humans of the Quokkas.
  • The word 'quokka' originates from the language of Nyungar (Noongar) people, who were aborigines of the area.

References

1. Quokka Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quokka
2. Quokka on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/20165/0

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