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Friday, November 04, 2005 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

What is a Quokka?

The Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is a small macropod, about the size of
a large domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as the kangaroos and wallabies) the Quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal.

In the wild, it is now restricted to a very small range in mainland south-western Western Australia, where it has become rare, and on two fox-free islands off the coast: Bald Island and Rottnest Island — which is its stronghold. On Rottnest Island it is common and occupies a wide range of habitats, ranging from semi-arid scrub to cultivated gardens.

Quokkas are the only member of the genus Setonix. They are 40 to 54 cm long with a 25 to 30 cm tail — which is rather short for a macropod. They have a stocky build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head. Although looking rather like a very small, dumpy kangaroo, they can climb small trees and shrubs. Their coarse fur is a grizzled brown colour, fading to buff underneath.

Quokkas are gregarious and gather in large groups where food is available: primary items are grasses, sedges, succulents and foliage. They breed at any time on the mainland, but in late summer on Rottnest. Restricted availability of the trace element copper appears to be a major limiting factor of the ability of Quokkas to breed on Rottnest Island.

Although numerous on the small offshore islands, they have a very restricted range and are classified as vulnerable. On the mainland, where they must contend with introduced foxes, they require dense ground cover for refuge.

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