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Quokka Facts

Size 40-55 cm (body), 25-30 cm (tail)
Speed Up to 18 mph (30 km/h)
Weight 8.8-33 lb (2-5 kg)
Lifespan 10-15 years
Food Grass, leaves, herbs, plants, fruit
Predators Cats, foxes, dogs, dingos
Habitat Australia
Order Diprotodontia
Family Kangaroos
Scientific name Setonix brachyurus
Characteristics Seems to smile all day long

Main Characteristics

Quokkas are small kangaroos that have been described as the happiest animals in the world. Their mouths are angled upwards, so it looks like they’re smiling and happy whenever they open their mouths. Quokkas are very sociable and live in groups of 25 to 150 animals.

Quokka Photo: Gone For A Drive/Shutterstock


How do you pronounce quokka? Where does this name come from? Quokka is pronounced “kwoh-ka”. The word rhymes with Coca (as in Coca Cola) when you say it quickly. It’s a funny name, so where does it come from? Quokka comes from the word “gwaga” or “kwaka” from the Aboriginal language (native Australians).


Distribution and Habitat

Quokkas live in Australia, almost exclusively on Rottnest Island and Bald Island. They primarily live in dense woods and swamps but also in open woodland and bushland. They only live in dry areas if there is enough fresh water, shade and plants.

Quokka Photo: David Haykazyan/Shutterstock

Life Style

How Do Quokkas live?

Quokkas are nocturnal as it’s too hot during the day. So they sleep in a sheltered, shaded place.


Quokkas eat grasses, leaves and plants. They especially love one: a shrub called Guichenotia ledifolia. It has blue, purple or pink flowers. If quokkas have eaten enough leaves, they can go a long time without water.

Quokka Photo: DaniiGrylls/Shutterstock



What Do Quokkas Do When in Danger?

Quokkas trample high grass down to create tunnels that they can use to quickly escape without being seen by predators. If a quokka has a baby in its pouch and there’s no other way to get away, it will put its young on the ground at hop away. The baby starts to call out, drawing the predator’s attention. It might sound grim, but this ensures the adult quokka’s survival, and she can make another baby in the future - if she didn’t make this sacrifice, both mother and baby would perish.

Senses and Abilities

Can Quokkas Climb?

Yes, quokkas climb up to five feet (1.5 meters) up trees to get to fruit.

Enemies and Threats

Are Quokkas Endangered?

Yes. Quokkas are endangered according to the IUCN. They used to be very common on mainland Australia but the arrival of animals such as foxes and cats meant that their numbers dwindled.


Quokkas bear one single baby quokka after one month of pregnancy. These are called joeys. It stays in the mother’s pouch for six months, and then nurses for another two months.

Discovering Quokkas

Thee animals were first described by Dutch sailor Willem de Valmingh in 1696. But he thought they were big rats due to their long, flat tails. That’s why the island he discovered them on is called Rottnest Island - the Dutch term for “rat’s nest”.

Quokka Photo: EA Given/Shutterstock

Social Media

Are Quokkas Dangerous?

Erm, hold on. The happiest animals in the world dangerous? These animals, the ones that look so peaceful and nice and friendly? Quokkas are indeed very chilled out, but even they have their limits. For example, if they are hassled by humans all day (tourists especially want pictures with them). They can scratch with their sharp claws, bite or kick with their powerful hind legs. Each year, people end up in hospital after being injured by quokkas. But not because a quokka attacked, because a quokka defended itself.

The Selfie Animal

Quokkas are THE selfie animal. Every year, countless tourists travel to Rottnest Island to get a photo with these smiling kangaroos. These curious animals aren’t very wary of people, which makes it much easier to get a selfie. To get them to pose for photos, people bribe them with cookies and other treats. But this kind of food could kill quokkas. So it’s strictly forbidden to feed them.

Fun Facts

Can You Keep Quokkas as Pets? No, it is illegal to keep quokkas as pets. It is even punishable.

The Quokka Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

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