Quokka, Setonix brachyurus
The quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is the sole member of its genus, Setonix, and is a marsupial in the macropod family. It is native to Australia, holding a fragmented range that includes coastal islands like Bald Island and Rottnest Island. There is a small population in continental Australia located in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve. On Rottnest Island, its preferred habitat includes areas in cultivated gardens to semiarid scrublands. The quokka was first discovered by Europeans, and in 1696, it was mistaken for a large rat by Willem de Vlamingh, who gave Rottnest Island its name because of this incident.
The quokka is about the size of a domesticated cat, reaching an average body length between sixteen and thirty-five inches, with a weight of up to eleven pounds. The tail is short in comparison to other members of its family, reaching a length of up to twelve inches. It has a stout body, with a small head and short ears. It is brown in color, with parts of grey on the tips of the fur, while the under belly is paler in color. It is nocturnal and its diet consists of vegetation.
The quokka populations on the inland are typically threatened by predation from foxes and habitat destruction. This species required dense vegetation to escape from predators, so the removal of its habitat only increases the danger of predation from foxes and introduced species of cats and dogs. Currently, the quokka appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Vulnerable.”
Image Caption: Quokka on Rottnest Island. Credit: SeanMack/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)