Considered by many to be the happiest animal on Earth, the quokka is easily Rottnest Island’s most famous inhabitant. But there’s a lot more to these adorable little creatures than their big smile and friendly nature. Here we take a closer look at the mighty quokka and the important contribution they make to life on Rottnest Island.
Quick Quokka facts
Here are just a few of the interesting things that make the quokka such a unique, special, and iconic animal:
- They helped give the Island its name: When Dutch explorers first arrived on the land we now know as Rottnest Island, they thought the quokka was a rodent. As such, they labelled it “Rat Nest Island” which, over time, became “Rottnest Island”.
- They’re true Rottnest Island natives: Quokkas are the only mammal that’s native to Rottnest Island and there are around 10,000 on the island. They are also found on the mainland, mostly throughout Western Australia’s South West region.
- There’s a secret behind their smile: While the quokka’s big, beaming smile is known across the world, the reason they do it might surprise you. Rather than being an expression of joy, a quokka smiling is more like a dog panting – it indicates that they’re hot.
- They’re quite agile: While quokkas usually hop along the ground, most can climb trees when they need to. That said, they’re nocturnal, so usually spend their days sleeping in the shade, resting up for their night time activities.
- They’re highly adaptable, but still need protection: Studies have found that Rottnest Island’s quokka population has thrived over the last decade, even though tourism has increased. However, they remain vulnerable and require protection, which is why there are strict rules about interacting with them.
How to get up close and personal with a quokka
Seeing a quokka is high on most visitors’ lists of things to do on Rottnest Island. And the good news is, thanks to the large numbers on the island, spotting one should be pretty easy. However, there are a few important things to be aware of when interacting with a quokka:
- You cannot feed them: Most human foods are extremely bad for quokkas and can make them very sick.
- You cannot touch them: While quokkas are friendly, they’re still wild animals that can bite and often carry nasty diseases, like salmonella. To help keep them safe, there’s also a $300 fine for anyone found trying to touch a quokka.
- You should let them come to you: Rottnest Island’s quokkas have become quite used to people and will usually come up to say hello. However, to maximise your chances of this, you need to be quiet and still – and patient!
- You should watch out for them when exploring Rottnest Island: While they tend to sleep during the day, quokkas will become active at dusk and dawn. As such, you should be careful when travelling around at these times, watching out for them and giving them space.
- You can take your own #quokkaselfie: While you’ll need to keep some distance, it’s OK to get close enough to take your picture with a quokka.
Want to learn more about the mighty quokka?
Rottnest Island is extremely lucky to be the home of such an amazing little animal. But this comes with a level of responsibility, and we are committed to making sure these creatures are cared for. For more information on the quokka, exploring Rottnest Island, or other things to do on Rottnest Island, contact us today.