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Pub Quokka getting fed
Credit: Martin Lopatka (apothecary on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

This week, in a Huffington Post article by Katie Sola, I read that two men who set fire to a quokka will only spend one week in jail. Fortunately, the quokka lived through the abuse but has singed fur.

According to Western Australia Today, Magistrate Elizabeth Langdon stated, "The first word that springs to mind to describe your behaviour is abhorrent." She informed the men they "would be held in custody for seven days or until they paid their fines."

Their fines were set at only $4,000 each but the two men chose jail time instead.

The maximum penalty for such an act is $50,000 and five years in jail. Naturally, there was public outrage over the incident. The quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is a harmless Australian marsupial that is a vulnerable species.

I was relieved to learn that under new legislation, anyone found hurting a quokka could be fined $300,000.

A Single Joey is Born After a 27-Day Gestation Period

Quokka Family
Credit: By Hesperian (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed the Happiest Animal in the World

World happiest animal, QuokkaJin Xiang on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericApparently, the latest social media craze is to have a selfie taken with a quokka.

In a February 26th, 2015 article by Jenni Ryall in Mashable, I learned that under the hashtag quokkaselfie, tourists are tripping over themselves to have a photo taken with these happy-looking marsupials.

And it appears that quokkas pose no threat to humans and can be quite friendly

But what many people may not understand is that it is illegal for members of the public (on Rottnest Island) to handle this protected species - in any manner.

Unfortunately, quokkas in the wild live in a restricted range of southwestern Australia. They need dense ground cover to hide from predators (such as foxes).

But agricultural development has reduced their habitat and contributed to their decline.

To a much lesser degree, diseases such as toxoplasmosis has killed individual quokkas. And, as a defense mechanism, mothers will expel their pouch (dumping out their young) when pursued by predators.

Up next, a 59-second segment published by Samsung Mobile on November 25th, 2014 titled The Cutest Animal in the GALAXY - Quokka.

The Cutest Animal in the GALAXY - Quokka

Fascinating Quokka Facts

The preceding video provided a wonderful overview of the quokka. During my research, I found the following facts equally as fascinating. My sources included: Animal Fact Guide - Quokka Facts, Australian Government Department of the Environment - Setonix brachyurus - Quokka, Wikipedia, and National Geographic News.

Geographic distribution of the Quokka (Setonix brachyurus)IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, species assessors and the authors of the spatial data. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsBesides Rottnest Island, quokkas are also found in Western Australia (on the mainland), as well as on Bald Island (a small southwest island).

Rottnest was derived from "rats' nest" - a name given to the region by a 1700s Dutch sea captain. He described the quokka as "a kind of rat as big as a common cat."

Quokkas are at risk of developing muscular dystrophy, a disease in which their muscles are damaged and weakened.

If necessary, they can survive for long periods without food or water by living off the fat stored in their tails.

Quokkas live for about 10 years and females can have up to 17 young (known as joeys) during their lifetime.

Guichenotia macrantha (cultivated, labelled) , Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, Victoria, AustraliaBy Melburnian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAs you might have guessed from the term joey, quokkas (aka short-tailed scrub wallabies) belong to the same taxonomic family as kangaroos.

A flowering plant of the genus Guichenotia (which includes 16 species) is one of the quokka's favourite foods (shown at right). It grows in southwestern Australia. 

The word quokka was derived from an endangered Australian aboriginal language known as Nyungar. It was probably gwaga.

Quokkas seem to live near water and prefer thick vegetation and swampy areas. They tend to remain close to riverbanks and eucalyptus forests on the mainland of southwestern Australia.

Rottnest was designated a penal colony in the late 1830s which helped to keep quokka habitat intact.

QuokkaGreg Schechter (gregthebusker on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericEven though they appear to move like a small kangaroo, quokkas can climb shrubs and small trees. They are nocturnal creatures who forage for food mainly at night.

Quokkas are herbivores. They eat grasses, leaves, stems, and the bark of many plants.

Up next is a super short 8-second video of Sticky the Quokka running through the corridors of "Nocturnal House" with a Perth Zoo keeper. This practice is an important part of behavioural enrichment which ensures Sticky stays fit. 

Personally, I'd love to have Sticky be my running partner.

Morning Jog - Zoo Style

Published on March 31st, 2015 by Perth Zoo

How To Help Quokkas

Mum and Baby QuokkaThomas Giuretis (katatoniq on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericIn National Georgraphic, Jennifer S. Holland wrote that according to zoologist Yegor Malaschichev, a marsupial expert at St. Petersburg State University, it is important NOT to feed quokkas - especially "what we think they may like to eat" (such as bread). 

He warned it can "stick between their teeth and cause an infection called lumpy jaw."

Sue Miller, a conservation biologist with the University of Western Australia added: 

"People tend to feed them fries, bread, or fruit, and the animals become trusting of humans, which can cause problems."

And if you visit an area with quokkas, do not touch them or feed them. You can also help protect their habitat by supporting efforts to reduce logging in Western Australia. Another helpful resource is Quokka Rescue.

Lastly, I leave you with a 3-minute Quokka segment - All About Animals TV Show.wmvby AllAboutAnimalsTV which was uploaded on September 28th, 2011. Olivia visits the Adelaide Zoo to learn about quokkas.

Quokka segment - All About Animals TV Show.wmv

Season 1: All About Animals TV Show

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