21 Oct 2022


Meet the quokka - the happiest animal in the world! These small, mostly nocturnal marsupials were once described by a Dutch explorer as “a kind of rat”, and they were once widely distributed across the southwest of Western Australia and offshore islands.

Nowadays, the largest population make their home on Rottnest Island and Bald Island in Western Australia, but there is also a small colony on the mainland of WA. Other than that, they can’t be found anywhere else in the world, which is why so many people, including celebrities, visit Rottnest Island just to snap a selfie with a quokka. But while they’re adorable - there’s more to them than just looking cute.

No doubt, there’s a lot to love about these smiling animals. Here are 8 interesting facts about quokkas that you might not have known!

1. They’re related to kangaroos and wallabies.

These little inhabitants of Rottnest Island and Bald Island in Western Australia are from the same family as kangaroos and wallabies known as Macropodidae. They move around like their cousins by hopping and bounding with their small feet and short tails. Because they’re marsupials, the mothers also carry baby quokkas, known as joeys, in little pouches!

Quokka (setonix brachyurus) on Rottnest Island= Western Australia
© Leonie Sii / WWF-Aus

2. They can also climb trees.

Aside from being happy jumping balls of fur, quokkas can also climb trees- if necessary! They can climb up to 2 metres high to grab leaves off trees, one of their favourite things to eat, as quokkas are herbivorous. They usually like to munch on native grasses and reach the leaves just above their head for snacks.

3. They’re known as the happiest animal in the world!

It’s rare to see a quokka without a big ‘smile’ on their face! This, along with their friendly and endearing personalities, has earned them a reputation as the happiest animal in the world. Their smiling faces can be seen all over social media in the form of quokka selfies! In fact, there are over 20,000 quokka selfies on Instagram #quokkaspiration.

4. They can go for long periods without food or water.

Quokkas can go for weeks without eating by living off the fat stores in their short tails; this is crucial to helping them survive in seasons where vegetation is more sparse. They can also go for months without drinking fresh water, extracting most of the water they need from the plants they eat.

5. They are very peaceful and love sharing spaces.

These adorable critters aren’t territorial, which isn’t surprising, given how friendly they are. Unlike kangaroos, that do fight over territory, quokkas are happy to coexist peacefully with each other, so much that they even hop into shops on Rottnest Island regularly to say hello to everybody.

6. Although friendly, they aren’t harmless.

Although quokkas are happy to see us and are approachable, it doesn’t mean we should pat or cuddle them. They’re still wild animals and can bite! So it’s best just to watch how cute they are from a distance and take some photos of them.

Quokka (setonix brachyurus) on Rottnest Island= Western Australia
© Leonie Sii / WWF-Aus

7. They regurgitate their food…and eat it again!

These herbivorous marsupials like to swallow their food whole without chewing, then regurgitate it later and eat it again. Their diet consists of native grasses and leaves as well as the bark of some plants.

8. Sadly, quokkas are Vulnerable.

Due to habitat destruction, climate change and invasive predators, quokkas are listed as Vulnerable to extinction under Australia’s national environment law.

Want to help protect quokkas? Here’s how you can get involved.

  • Sign the petition and call on the Australian Government to commit to stronger protections for our wildlife and the wild places they call home.
  • Discover if threatened animals need protection in your local area by using WWF’s My Backyard tool, and find out how well they’re being cared for.
  • Tune in to Scat Chat with WWF to learn about the weird and wonderful ways that animal scat is being used to help wildlife conservation.
  • Find out more about how you can get involved to help regenerate Australia’s wildlife.