Ever heard of the “world’s happiest animal?” No?
Well, let me introduce you to Quokkas
Quokkas are part of the native Australian fauna, but they are not as widely spread as kangaroos (as soon as you get out of the urban chaos you’ll be able to easily spot them chilling in the shade if you are a scrupulous observer).
Where are they?
The only place where you can see Quokkas in the wild is Rottnest Island, in Western Australia. It was named after these little animals by Willem de Vlaming, one of the first Dutch explorers who came across them. In fact, in the Aussie slang Rott means rat, which is what these cute marsupials look like, mainly because of their tail, despite them belonging to the Wallaby’s family and being the size of a cat.
Pretty weird, isn’t it?
Their diet consists of leaves, seeds, grass and roots, so it is rare to see them climbing trees and they might do so only when feeling threatened. They tend to use their paws to pick up food, but you might be lucky enough to feed them from your bare hands if you pay a visit to Wildlife natural reserves or to National Parks.
A little advice: being them nocturnal, it would be easier to engage with them early in the morning, otherwise you are likely to catch them taking a nap.
Some other information
Their breeding season falls in late Summer and joeys enjoy the warmth of the pouch for about six months, at an average temperature above 30 degrees!
Wild Quokkas can live up to 10 years, but they are an endangered species due to their habitats being compromised and human persecution, not only in terms of environmental erosion, caused by agriculture and urbanization, but also because of the massive introduction of dingos, their natural predators.
They have been protected by the Rottnest Island Authority Act since 1987 and have been listed as vulnerable under ICUN since 2014. That’s why tourists visiting Rottnest Island are asked not to touch nor to feed them, but just to admire their smiling faces.
The secret behind their smile
The reason why they look so friendly and posing for cameras is the heat. In fact, their cheeky grin has developed over the century as they evolved and adapted to the climate, allowing them cooling off in one of the sunniest Aussie locations.
If you are lucky, you might even manage to take a selfie with them (apparently they enjoy taking part to this activity), but don’t expect to be the cutest!
If you want to get inspired and take the best picture ever, you can just check Instagram hashtags with the words #quokka or #quokkaselfie… some of them are so beautiful they do not even seem real.
Their popularity is such that since 2017 the Margaret River Chocolate Company has commercialized an Easter Quokka, which rapidly replaced the bunnies we are commonly used to. This is not good just in terms of profits (which were hugely driven by these new items), but for Quokkas too, given that a percentage of the earnings is funding Rottnest Island’s conservational centers.