Distribution: Rottnest Island, south-west Western Australian mainland
Habitat: Dense vegetation or dense semi-arid heath.
Description: Quokkas are one of the smallest wallaby species in Australia. They have thick, coarse, grey-brown fur; short, rounded fluffy ears, a tail 24–31 cm long and shorter hindlegs than other macropod species.
Diet: Quokkas are herbivores and eat native grasses and the leaves, stems and bark of a variety of plants. They prefer browsing on new, young growth.
In the wild: On Rottnest Island, Quokkas appear to live in territories with the areas defended by dominant males. In other areas, territories are not as evident and larger, overlapping groups of 25–150 adults have been known to form around water soaks. Sheltering in dense vegetation during the day, Quokkas create their own pathways for feeding or escaping predators.
Threats: Quokkas were once abundant on the Australian mainland but with the arrival of the dingo around 3,500 years ago and then foxes in the late 1800s (neither of which reach Rottnest) their numbers were drastically reduced. Today they are showing signs of recovery on the mainland thanks to the Department of Environment and Conservation’s feral-proofing operations.
At Perth Zoo: Perth Zoo’s Quokkas can be seen in the Australian Bushwalk.
Did you know? Quokkas are very unusual for a number of reasons. They are able to survive in an environment virtually devoid of freshwater and they can climb trees.
Quokkas have been used in medical research on muscular dystrophy as they suffer from the same disease.