YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
This week’s featured creature sometimes pops up on the Internet as “the world’s happiest animal.” And one look at their beaming smile makes it easy to see why.
So what makes the Quokka so Wowzerful? Keep reading to find out!
Explorers first encountered quokkas in Australia in 1696, nearly 400 years ago. They initially thought they’d discovered a new species of giant rat!
They named the place they discovered these animals “Rattennest,” a name that can still be seen in the modern name of the main island they call home: Rottnest Island.
Quokkas once roamed a wide area of Australia’s Western region. Today, however, the majority of them live on Bald or Rottnest Islands. They’re considered a vulnerable species with habitat destruction and brushfires being two of their greatest threats.
But these small (and super cute) animals aren’t rats at all. In fact, they’re marsupials— related to both the kangaroo and the wallaby. They’re also known as a short tail scrub wallaby, but we think quokka is a lot more fun to say!
Like kangaroos, they like to move about by hopping on their hind legs, and they protect their young in a pouch on their bellies.
They weigh up to 5kg(roughly 11lbs) and can reach as long as 54cm (21in) long — so they’re not as tiny as they might appear in pictures.
They mostly eat plants and love to nibble on grass and leaves. If you’re ever in the area, your best chance to see one is at night or in the early morning as quokkas are nocturnal.
But don’t get too close or let that cuddly face fool you — they have some sharp rear clawsand teeth. A kick or bite could cause painful injuries.
Despite their vulnerable status, quokkas live for about 10 years and have lots of offspring. So with a little protection from the humans they share their homes with, they should be around for generations to come!
Say cheese! Quokkas are super social and will often come up to tourists and even pose for pictures. Just don’t feed them or pet them, because it could cost you hefty fine!
While you might like to sleep on a soft bed, quokkas prefer the branches of the Acanthocarpus preissii— also known as the Prickle Lily. They nestle in the spikes to keep predators away while they nap.
Ready for seconds? Like cows, quokkas often chew their food multiple times, regurgitating it (or throwing it up) to chew it up multiple times before finally digesting it.
Quokkas pant when they get hot, much like a dog. This can lead to some adorable photos, but scientists still aren’t sure if all that smiling and posing for the camera is actually because they’re happy.
See how ‘quokka selfies” have helped conservation efforts raise awareness for the protection of the species on Rottnest Island.
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