The Photogenic Quokka : The Happiest Animal

The Photogenic Quokka : The Happiest Animal


Vinisha Sharma, Journalist/Editor

The quokka, also known as the short-tailed scrub wallaby, is the size of a domestic cat and is a marsupial (having a pouch in its belly to carry young ones). The Quokka is primarily a grazing herbivore. Its main diet consists of tree and shrub buds, leaves, grasses, succulents  (plants that are fleshy and retain water), seeds, and roots. However, the Quokka has been known to eat small animals such as snails and legless lizards. 


Quokkas, on average, can live for about ten to fifteen years. They inhabit shrubland, wetlands (inland), and forests. The lynchpin of quokka habitat is a cool, shady shelter. Quokkas are found on some smaller islands off the coast of Western Australia, particularly Rottnest Island just off Perth and Bald Island near Albany. Isolated scattered populations also exist in forest and coastal heath between Perth and Albany. 


A small colony inhabits a protected area of Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, where they co-exist with the critically endangered Gilbert’s potoroo. A quokka can weigh up to 2.5 to 5.0 kg and is about 40 to 54 cm (16 to 21 in) in length with a 25 to 30 cm long tail, which is quite short for a macropod. Although looking rather like a very small kangaroo, it can climb small trees and shrubs up to 1.5 meters. Its coarse fur is a brown grizzled color, fading to buff underneath. Quokkas are nocturnal animals; they sleep during the day using the plants’ spikes for protection and hiding. 


Quokkas are friendly and approachable creatures. They’re used to tourists, so they have little fear of human contact, and they’ll hop right up to people who are marveling at them. This is how visitors to Rottnest Island (Western Australia) are able to pose for so many “quokka selfies.” The main reason for the quokka’s extreme cuteness is its face, with that little smile that makes them seem super-happy. That may just be the way the quokka’s mouth is shaped though. Quokkas also open their mouths to pant, like dogs, when they get hot, which sometimes look like the quokka is giving us a big smile.


Quokkas were first discovered in the 1600s. Can only be found on Rottnest Island and Bald Island in Australia. The best time to spot quokkas is early morning or early evening. Known to live an average of 10 to 15 years. Baby quokkas are called ‘joeys’ and their conservation status is Vulnerable (Population Decreasing).