Conservation Status– Vulnerable
The quokka has a coarse brown coat that becomes lighter on the underside. On the face and neck are some reddish tinges. These animals appear like a small, stocky kangaroo with rounded ears. In comparison to other wallaby’s their hind legs and tail are short. This adaptation helps them to hop quickly through tall brush and grass. Their rounded nose is tipped with a black nose.
Quokkas measure 40-90cm (16-35in). The tail makes up 25 to 30cm (9.8-11.8in). An average quokka will weigh 2.5-5kg (5.5-11lb).
Lifespan for the quokka is 5-10 years.
The quokka is an herbivore. Native grasses, leaves, stems, fruits, berries and the bark off of trees. A main component of their diet is the grasses through which they carve tracks. When feeding they begin by swallowing the food and not chewing it. At a later time they regurgitate the food as cud and then chew it.
Quokkas need low amounts of water to function and at times will go for months without a drink.
Quokkas have a very limited distribution in Australia. Most of the population exists on Bald and Rottnest islands. There is also a mainland colony in the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve.
Scrub, open woodlands, thick forests, semi-arid heath and swamps provided the most common homes of the quokka. They pick a habitat situated near a water source.
Breeding in quokka populations occurs from January through to March. It takes 27 days for a single joey to be born. Once it is born it crawls along the mother’s fur up to the pouch and attaches to a teat.
Young spend the first 6 months of their life in the pouch. Once this time is up they begin to emerge. They still require milk for at least another six months.
Mating can take place at any time of the year in quokka populations. Due to predation and other factors they generally only have one each year so they can focus on protecting that one. In zoos they can breed all year round.
At 1 year of age the baby becomes sexually mature.
Natural predators of the quokka include dingoes and birds of prey. Introduced species such as cats, dogs and foxes have led to large decreases in the quokka population.
Quokkas are highly social. Up to 150 individuals may have overlapping home ranges. Only occasional tiffs are seen between males who may compete for the most shaded spot on a hot day.
The quokka is a nocturnal species. They spend their day sheltering under trees. At night they go out into the grass hunting. This is done by moving through the tunnels which they create by moving through similar walkways each night. These walkways also assist them to quickly evade predators.
A unique ability of the quokka is that they can climb trees so they can reach their food sources.
On Rottnest Island the quokkas are so friendly they will regularly approach guests. It is illegal for guests to touch the quokkas though. Occasionally people food the quokkas human food and this causes them to become malnourished or dehydrated.
Some researchers studying muscular dystrophy have used quokkas in experiments as they too can succumb to this disease.
Quokkas are the only members of their genus, steonix.
When European explorers first discovered the quokka they believed it was a large rat with brown fur. Rottnest island was even named for this.