Taronga’s Backyard to Bush allows visitors the chance to meet some of Australia’s most iconic bush animals but also creepy, crawly, slimy and scaly wild creatures! We sat down with keeper, Samantha Elton to learn more about one of our friendly little macropods, the quokka.
What do you love quokkas?
I think the quality I love the most is how cheeky and confident they are. I was lucky enough to hand-raise a little quokka, named Poppy-Lou, whose mother was sick and they are just beautiful animals.
What is the conservation status of the quokka and what is the main threat to the species?
Quokkas as currently classified as a ‘threatened species’. The population on Rottnest Island is threatened the most by natural disasters like floods and fires. The quokkas on the mainland have the additional threat of feral animals and dingoes.
What does the day in the life of Taronga’s Quokkas look like?
Quokkas get up nice and early to feed and then sleep throughout the day and get up again as the sun goes down, as an adaptation to Australia’s hot climate. Quokkas love to eat and we often see quokkas that are heavier than they should be. Unfortunately tourists on Rottnest often feed the quokkas human food, which we strongly advise against as this can be harmful to them. Quokkas are herbivores who mainly eat shrubs, leaves and a little bit of grass. We have found they really enjoy eucalyptus leaves. It has also been noted by researchers that quokkas can climb shrubs if they need to.
Who are the five Taronga Quokkas?
Joe, Berocca and Natasha are our breeding group from Rottnest. We also have Pep and Spring, who were born here at Taronga.
Why do you think Quokkas are known as ‘the world’s happiest animal’?
The name was originally suggested because they look like they are always smiling, but as long as they have food in their bellies they tend to always be very happy-go-lucky little animals. Compared to their cousins the kangaroo, who are often quite nervous, quokkas are very confident and nothing really phases them. What is Taronga doing to ensure the Quokka species? Taronga is playing a role in the national breeding program for quokkas. Our breeding programs have been very successful, as Pep and Spring are part of the 4th generation at Taronga. We are hoping Berocca and Natasha will have pouch young in the not to distance future.
You can see Taronga’s friendly quokkas during the Christmas school holidays at Backyard to Bush.