Who is the quokka, nicknamed “the happiest animal in the world”?

Why do quokkas smile?

The quokka, the Australian cat-sized marsupial, is so popular mainly because of its ever-smiling face, which has earned it the nickname “the happiest animal in the world” and made it the star of traveler selfies. This joyful expression and his laughing black eyes, which make him almost human and make him successful, have nothing to do with a permanent good mood. This so characteristic smile is indeed simply due to the physiology of the animal: it is the natural shape of its mouth.

Where does the quokka live?

The quokka is an animal found only in Australia. Belonging to the same family as the kangaroo, it does not however move by leaps, but on its four legs or by hopping. To observe it, it is in Western Australia that it is necessary to go, and especially in the south: forest of Jarrah, island of Bad, chain Stirling and surroundings of the city of Perth. Its most important place of life, however, is the island of Rottnest, where it is still counted in the thousands. Appreciating humidity, the quokka likes marshy thickets and grassy plains where it finds something to drink, something to eat, but also something to protect itself from the sun.

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Are the quokka endangered?

If the quokka is not yet an endangered species, it is one of those said to be endangered. Indeed, the population of this marsupial is in decline. It suffers primarily from the degradation of its habitat: human clearing, but also fires, which fragment its natural habitat. Consequence: the genetic diversity decreases, which is likely to increase the cases of malformations of the young and premature deaths.

In addition, the presence of feral pigs also causes complications for the quokka. The pigs indeed trample the swamps in which it lives, destroying the plants on which it feeds, and attract predators which also attack the quokka. The red fox, the dingo and the cat are also predators introduced by man who come to upset its populations. Finally, the quokka is regularly run over by cars, especially in the Jarrah region.

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What is the quokka’s way of life?

The quokka is an animal that lives in groups consisting of 20 to 150 individuals. He basically activates at night and spends the day sleeping. At least that’s the theory, because in some areas, notably Rottnest, quokkas have taken to keeping watch during the day in order to enjoy the food travelers offer them.

The quokka is herbivorous. It feeds on the leaves of trees and shrubs which it is able to climb with its claws, but also on grass when the climatic conditions require it, such as near Rottnest, a more arid region. The marsupial needs a minimum supply of water, which is provided by food. He can thus go several months without drinking. In anticipation of hard times, the quokka stores fat in its tail.

Each year, a female quokka can give birth to one or two young depending on the more or less favorable nature of the season. It raises it in its ventral pouch, like the kangaroo. With its one centimeter for a weight of barely 400 grams, the baby quokka, called joey, is indeed particularly vulnerable. He thus spends 6 months sheltered in his mother’s pocket.

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