THE BELOVED LITTLE MAMMALS
I am not sure I know anyone who wouldn’t make a selfie with quokkas, if that is somehow possible. They are so irresistible animals that they attract people to try to touch them, pose with them or even cuddle with them. The happy creatures are known to be one of the protected Australian species that is in declining, due to the climate changes, aggressive industrialisation and local predators, as foxes, feral cats or wild dogs.
Just at the beginning, quokkas have been described as giant rats, when the first colonists visited Australia. The Dutch captain Willem de Vlanmigh named the island `t Eylandt Rottenest (Rat’s Nest Island) in 1696, believing that those cheeky, furry critters are actually some odd kind of the rats, big as cats. You can pronounce their name as kwo-ka or like kwah-ka but you cant say that they aren’t so cute and amazing, with their friendly face expression.
They belong to the nocturnal marsupials, as the smallest members of the big foot family, sharing the roots with kangaroos and wallabies. Their way of life is similar to the other cousins, but they also can climb the trees, beside hopping and bounding. Since they live in such a specific and dry habitat, they used to save food and water in their little tails as the reservoir. If we compare them to kangaroos, we will notice the big difference in social behaviour. The quokkas are friendly and curious and gladly share their space and shelters with others while big brothers are usually aggressive and unfriendly for an intruder.
Setonix brachyurus is their Latin name and it is related to their short tail but they are adorable pouched mammals. The quokka moms have one or eventually two babies a year and they are taking really good care of them, in spite of some writings that they throw out their babies to the predators, when they are endangered. This is not something they do for a selfish reason, but a pure survival instinct that is described as followed: “If a mother is being pursued by a predator, she’ll sacrifice her baby to save herself. She won’t actually throw it, but she’ll eject it from her pouch, and the baby will flail on the ground and make noise that attracts the predator. You can probably guess what happens next. It’s a pretty nasty instinct for such a cute creature, but that’s nature for you. If mom didn’t do it, she’d probably be caught and killed with the baby still in her pouch. To put it another way, moms can survive an attack and reproduce again, but babies can’t.” It is not easy for them to reach their lifespan of 10-15 years due to many risks from local animal predators and also from humans, that sometimes terrorise quokkas. Australian law is very strict and rigid about and tries to prevent any animal abuse but still happens. The chobby furry friends do not have fear from humans and they like to be around them. As you can imagine, there are some sociopaths who don’t like that and who do the act of animal cruelty against them.
The Rottnest Island is their natural home and if you are a tourist there, you will see them all around. They are so fearless and interested in humans that they do not hesitate to come into the bar, restaurants or shops, to be around people. I guess that we are some kind of cool entertainment for quokkas and the tourists are obsessed with those funny, smiled critters. Many of them made a selfie with quokkas but patiently waiting for them to come and pose for a photo. It is not allowed to chase after them for a photo or to disturb them. Petting or feeding is also banned and may costs you from 150$ to 300$, depending on what you have for with quokkas. They are still wild animals that are under official conservation laws. So, if quokkas come to you and pose with you, you can do it, but keeping a distance and not forcing this sweet mammal doing anything what is not interested in. There are some of tourists who even reported that quokkas stalked them or even tried to steal something from them. With no doubt, they are interesting and thrilling and you may think they are an ideal pet but keep in mind that they are still wild animals, that have sharp claws and short temper. Do not cross your borders and accept them and respect them as an unique part of our wonderful wildlife system.
The biology of quokkas is also very specific. For example, their reproductive logic is a kind of tricky. How we can ever understand that those animal have postponed impregnation. This term is known in zoology as embryonic diapause. The female can mate with a male but the eggs will be developed at the moment of favourable conditions for a baby. It is a kind of natural reproduction policy that save their energy from useless raising of joeys that have n survival chances. This means that quokkas moms wont have another baby as long as they are sure that first baby is independent and safe. If the first baby is safe, the embryo will be erased and if the baby doesn’t survive, the second baby will be developed as a replacement. The nature is fascinating with its rules and regulations.
Those beautiful animals with the most adorable smile in the animal world are under risk of extinction, if something doesn’t change. The wild bushfire that has attacked Australia has also destroyed the quokkas habitat. They are in declining population and local predators are also praying on quokkas with no mercy. They may be smiled, due to the hot temperature, but they arent safe. It is a long road for Australia and also for the rest of the world, to work on environmental revision of the global policy and also to implement the complete new approach to the wildlife issues and our role in responsible and sustainable development. It is not only about precious quokkas but about all other enchanting animals that should be protected as the part of our beautiful Planet Earth. We have been given a role of guardians and not the role of destroyers. It is a time for a big change.