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 are short. They have a short, round tail which features little fur. 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).’
Males are typically larger than females.
The quokka has a light brown coat which helps them to blend in with the grass that makes up most of their habitat.
Their short, round tail and strong back legs help them to hop quickly through their environment.
Quokkas are active at night which helps them to avoid many of their natural predators which are active during the day.
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, wetlands, 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. In zoos they can breed year round.
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.
At 1 year of age the baby becomes sexually mature.
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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.
Predators and Threats
Introduced species such as cats, dogs and foxes have led to large decreases in the quokka population.
Humans contribute to the demise of the quokka through habitat destruction (mainly logging), climate change and an increase in fire frequency.
Their small range is a major threat to their survival as one significant event could lead to the extinction of the species.
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.
Copyright. The Animal Facts
Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2020. Setonix brachyurus (amended version of 2019 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T20165A166611530. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-1.RLTS.T20165A166611530.en. Downloaded on 22 May 2020.
Burrell, S., 2020. Quokka. [online] The Australian Museum. Available at: <https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/mammals/quokka/> [Accessed 22 May 2020].
Burnie, D. and Wilson, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: Dorling Kindersley.
Slater, P. and Parish, S., 2016. First Field Guide To Australian Mammals. 1st ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.