Squee Spree

The Quokka is one of the smallest Wallaby species with a short tail, small hind legs, and a rounded compact body. Its dense fur is fairly coarse and usually brown or grey in color, with reddish tinges around the face and neck, and generally lighter in color on the underside. The Quokka also has small and rounded ears, and a rounded snout that is tipped with a black nose. At only about a meter tall, these features are much smaller than many others in the wallaby species, but they enable the Quokka to hop through vegetation quickly. They live in groups defended by dominant males in tall grass near water sources. Quokkas are nocturnal animals that spend most of the hot, Australian day resting in the shade of the trees, often returning to the same spot every day. At night, the Quokka then begins to browse for food using tunnels to move about unseen.

Quokkas feed on different grasses that line that tunnels that they make through the dense vegetation. They also eat leaves, and fruits and berries when they are available. Although they mainly browse for food on the ground, they are also known to climb about a meter or so up into the trees to obtain food. Quokkas swallow their food without chewing it, and then regurgitate the undigested material as a cud, which is also eaten. They get most of their hydration from their food and have no need to drink vast amounts of water. In fact, they are able to go for long periods of time without food or water, instead living off the fat stored in their tails.

Quokka’s breeding season differs from location. On the mainland quokkas breed all year round, but on Rottnest Island they only breed from January to August. Breeding tends to occur in the cooler months between January and March. A single joey is born after a gestation period of only month. The joey crawls into its mother’s pouch unaided, a trait shared with other marsupials, when it then attaches itself to one of the female’s teats. The Quokka babies suckle from their mother in the pouch for around 6 months whilst they continue to develop. At this time, the joey emerges for the first time and begins to explore it’s surroundings but remains close to the female, continuing to rely on her milk for two more months. Females can give birth starting at the age of 1.5 years old and up to twice a year.

Quokka populations used to be thriving and widespread through the coastal regions of southwest Australia, but since the advent of European colonists in the 1930s, their numbers have dropped considerably. The settlers brought with them domestic predators such as cats, foxes, and dogs, which in turn attracted birds of prey and dingoes. Red foxes however have caused the most damage to quokkas. Now, quokkas live in small pockets of mainland Australia and Bald Island, with Rottnest Island as their primary home. Interestingly, a Dutch man, Willem de Vlamingh, accidentally mistook the quokkas for large rats when he arrived to the island in 1696. He named the island “Rattennest” which is Dutch for Rat’s Nest. This was adapted to Rottnest. Even these small areas of land to which they are confined are being threatened due to deforestation and development of the land, mainly for recreational purposes. The demise of their daytime resting sites has been linked to the declining population. The Quokka has been listed by the IUCN on their Red List as “vulnerable in its surrounding environment”.

This entry was written by Ritu A. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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