The quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is an endearing little marsupial that appears to be always smiling. They have long hind legs and a tail that they can balance on. Wild quokka are curious about people and will approach them. This friendliness has, unfortunately, lead to a decline in their numbers, as they make easy prey for invasive species such as domestic cats and European red foxes.
Like most marsupials, they are only found on the continent of Australia. Unlike many marsupials, they can climb trees. Quokkas rely on trees to supply some of their diet. They like eating tender young plants, including any new leaf growth, but will also eat bark. Quokka also rely on tall grasses to hide in during the day. They can only thrive in habitats with trees and long grasses. They also enjoy leaves from wattle plants.
Where Wild Quokka can be Found
The quokka has very small pockets of habitat in southwestern Australia. Small groups live on the mainland. The only place in the world where they are common is on Rottnest Island (Rat Nest Island), so named because a Dutch captain mistook the quokka for large rats. They can also still be found on nearby Bald Island.
Other areas where wild quokka still live are in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, Stirling Range National Park, Torndirrup National Park, the Tinkelelup Nature Reserve and Mt. Manypeaks National Park. Outside of national parks and the two islands, some still live in the Jarrah Forests. These places still have the long grasses, wattle plants and trees necessary for quokka survival. In order for these plants to grow, they need to be near water.
Quokkas stay in a specific home range for all of their lives. They do not migrate. They can go for long periods without drinking water, but they still need to eat fresh plants. In these dry times, the quokka will all the water it needs from the plants – provided it can find enough plants. This dependence on fresh plants confines the population to living near fresh water sources such as streams and rivers, but mostly swamps.
Unfortunately, most of Australia’s swamp lands have been drained as the result of human encroachment. Humans didn’t like the swamps and turned them into farmland and housing units. Combined with the introduction of invasive species that they were defenseless against and deaths from getting hit by vehicles has left the species vulnerable to extinction.