Quokka (Setonix brachyurus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family:    Macropodidae
Size:    Length: 18 to 23 inches (46 to 58 cm)
Weight: 5 to 10 pounds (2.25 to 4.5 kg)
Diet: Vegetation from trees and plants
Distribution: Australia
Young:  1 joey per year
Animal Predators:  Foxes and dingoes
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Young: Joey
Lifespan: Up to 10 years in the wild and up to 7 in captivity



·       The quokka is also known as the short-tailed scrub wallaby.

·       The name “quokka” comes from the name given to the animal by aborigines.

·       Quokkas have a very sensitive digestive system and are susceptible to anaemia and muscular dystrophy.

·       Most of the Rottnest Island quokka population are quite tame, showing little fear of humans.



Quokkas are actually small wallabies, but they resemble large rats. In the 1600s, when a Dutch explorer spotted an island off the west coast of Australia that was overrun with quokkas, he called the island “rat nest.” The spelling is the same as in English, but in Dutch, rat is pronounced “rut,” and as a result, over the years the name of the island evolved into Rottnest. Quokkas have a rounded, full body and a long, hairless tail. Closely resembling muskrats, their body is covered in brown, shaggy fur and their ears are small and rounded. Quokkas are marsupials, however, and when travelling quickly, will hop on their hind legs. Males are larger than females. 



At one time, quokkas were very common throughout Australia, but the introduction of dingoes many years ago, as well as foxes in the late 1800s, reduced their numbers to a great extent. Quokkas are now found in small numbers in southwestern Australia. They are more abundant, however, on Rottnest Island and Bald Island, where dingoes and foxes were never introduced. They prefer to live in densely vegetated, moist environments, but can also survive in the seasonally arid environment of Rottenest Island.


Feeding Habits

Quokkas eat vegetation from trees and plants. They can survive a long period of time without drinking water, as they obtain a sufficient amount of food from their vegetarian diet. 



Mating takes place anytime between August and January, with births occurring in March or April. Gestation lasts from 26 to 28 days, and the female gives birth to one young (known as a joey). Her teats are located in the pouch, and the joey crawls inside to nurse shortly after birth. It stays there for six to seven months before emerging. The joey then stays close by its mother for the next two to four months, giong back into the pouch to nurse or to seek comfort when frightened or cold. Joeys reach full maturity by two years of age.



They live in family groups with a dominant male and congregate in groups of up to 150 other quokkas. They stay in areas that provide shelter from the hot sun during the day, and come out at night to feed. By nature, quokkas are nocturnal, as the heat has a detrimental effect on these animals. However, the populations on Rottnest Island, which has become a resort/recreational area, are active during the day in order to receive food from tourists. 



Environment Australia’s Department of Conservation and Land Management is working to improve the living conditions of quokkas, including developing a predator-free interpretation/breeding site. Authorities are also trying to discourage people from feeding the quokkas, as many types of human food are detrimental to their health.