Quokkas may be one of the world’s cutest animals, yet they were hardly known outside of Australia before this week, when they became the center of a selfie trend on Instagram, which flooded the internet with pictures of the smiling marsupials.
The quokka is an irresistibly cute marsupial with beady eyes, a rat-like tail, and a permanent, indelible smile on its face. As National Geographic points out, quokkas are native to Rottnest and Bald Islands, which are located off the coast of West Australia, though they can be found on the mainland as well. Preferring thick vegetation, the animals are social plant eaters, and several years ago, the quokka was named the “happiest animal in the world,” due to the species’ memorable smile.
— Canal de Noticias (@canaldenoticias) March 7, 2015
Roughly 12,000 quokkas live on Rottnest Island, as the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out, though there are only thought to be 14,000 of them total in the wild. Visitors to Rottnest invariably run into the quokkas, and recently the species has become the center of a selfie craze, inspiring the hashtag #quokkaselfie. The friendly animals have no problem posing for innumerable photos, and Marsupial expert Yegor Malaschichev noted that there is little harm in photographing them. Touching a quokka, however, is a far different story.
— Sadie Hughes (@sassysadie25) April 3, 2015
Quokkas are considered a vulnerable species, due to their low numbers. In Australia, it is actually illegal to touch a quokka, despite their friendly nature. Tourists have also been warned not to feed the animals, as doing so can possibly cause a jaw infection which often proves to be fatal. According to conservation biologist Sue Miller of the University of Western Australia, there is always the risk that a quokka could possibly bite as well.
“People tend to feed them fries, bread, or fruit, and the animals become trusting of humans, which can cause problems. Animals that live farther away from [tourist activity] would probably hop away when approached.”
I know they’re not strictly pets… But you tell me Quokka selfies aren’t one of the greatest things on the Internet? pic.twitter.com/GxUgjLeN8n
— JammyPet (@JammyPost) March 28, 2015
Last year, Rottnest found itself in the news for other wildlife, when a man was filmed climbing atop a whale carcass off the Island’s coast. As the Inquisitr previously reported, a number of sharks were circling the dead cetacean, though the man was not attacked.
Recovery efforts are in place to maintain the species’ numbers, and with careful management, conservationists are optimistic that the quokkas will be around to pose for selfies for a long time to come.
[Image via Twitter]