Why quokka is considered to be the happiest animal in the world?
We all know about koalas and kangaroos, but what is a quokka? This sweet-natured marsupial is also native to Australia. The quokka’s docile temperament, friendliness to humans and smiling face have earned it the nickname “the world’s happiest animal.”
Where are they found?
Quokkas are furry, gray-brown creatures about the size of cats. They carry their young in a pouch and live on native plants.
While quokkas are endangered on the Australian mainland, they are flourishing on the sparsely populated Rottnest Island. The name comes from the German word for “rat’s nest.” Early German settlers on the island considered the quokkas no better than rats, and named the island after them.
There are more than 14,000 quokkas on the island. They usually live in cultivated gardens.
Vulnerable to extinction
Because of habitat destruction due to all that we label as ‘development’, quokkas are now considered vulnerable to extinction.
Their population ranges from 8,000-12,000. Sadly, they are all located in the same location, making them even more vulnerable. The good thing though is that only snakes are the natural predators in the area. Bushfires have also been blamed for their decline.
There are also some down sides with being the happiest animal on earth. Since they are very friendly and trusting, they don’t mind staying close to predators including dingoes, foxes, dogs and large birds. However, as these are harsh predators, quokkas always end up as their meal.
Despite its ‘vulnerable’ status, this cute animal isn’t scared of humans. Because quokkas are approachable and sociable, humans have quickly warmed to the little marsupials. Rottnest Island has seen a huge influx of tourists who want to spend time with the friendly fur balls. “Quokka selfies” are a popular pastime among travelers to the land down under.
In 2013, quokkas became really popular especially when they were features in a Huffington Post article. People started taking selfies with them and this started to go viral over the web. Since these animals are not afraid of humans, it seems as if they are also smiling in front of the camera. This selfie sensation is what paved the way for them to be named the happiest animal on earth. A lot of people decide to share their photos via social media.
In fact, conservation officials have expressed concern about letting too many tourists on the island because it could threaten the quokka population. A report from National Geographic Wild discussed the popularity of this cute critter and the Australian government’s efforts to protect it.
People can approach them and they won’t run away. However, if you see one, please be reminded that you are not allowed to handle them in any way. You should also avoid feeding them with human food as they might get sick. You can be fined a minimum of $300 for violations and it can lead to a maximum sentence of $50,000 with even five years of possible jail time.
Cute as a cute can be
Given their positive disposition, they became more popular in recent years. They have this appearance that makes them appear as if they are smiling all the time. When you feel blue, perhaps you can take a look at them smiling and it will brighten your day.
Quokkas have been around for some time. In fact, they were among the first Australian mammals discovered by the Europeans. The Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote about it first when he described sighting a wild cat on Rottnest Island in 1658. They were also mistaken as giant rats in 1696 by Willen de Vlamingh. Hence, the place was named as Rotte nest as rattennest means rat nest in Dutch.
Quokka’s diet usually consists of grasses as well as leaves from small trees and shrubs. They also love succulent plants because they contain moisture. They are perfect when water is scarce. These animals can survive in a small island since they have abundant food sources in the said area.
As they are marsupials, they also have pouches. They also carry their young on their pouches just like kangaroos. However, unlike other marsupials, they are fond of climbing trees and shrubs. This is due to their height. They are small enough to carry their body moving up trees.