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The Quokka

The Quokka, setonix branchyuras, is similar to a small Wallaby although it is not quite as closely related to the other Wallabies as their appearance suggests.

Size

The Quokka will grow to about 4 kilograms (90 pounds) although the average is less than this.  This is about the size of a house Cat.

Discovery

Although Captain James Cook is sometimes said to have discovered Australia in 1770, Europeans had seen the continent before, and even landed on the west coast.

In 1658, the Quokka was described by Samuel Volkersen as being like a Civet Cat with brown hair.

On 1696, William de Vlamingh thought that they were Rats the size of a Cat.  The Island he saw them on he named Rottenest Island, meaning Rat’s Nest Island.  The Island is now called Rottnest Island.

Range

The Quokka used to be common in many parts of the south west of the Australian continent.  There are still a few on the mainland, but the only large concentration is on Rottnest Island.  The number on the island is about 10,000 although this fluctuates very widely.

Predators

The Quokka is big enough that it would not have many native predators.  Certainly Wedge-tailed Eagle would eat them.  Young ones would be vulnerable to the Western Quoll.

The main predators are the introduced European Red Fox, and feral Cats and Dogs including Dingos.

These animals have wiped out nearly all the Quokkas on the mainland.

In some areas there have been serious attempts at controlling the introduced predators.  In some of these areas, Quokkas are now being seen.  Some of them had survived.  In other areas, the Quokkas are extinct, but can be reintroduced.

Trace Elements

Rottnest Island is not a perfect environment for the Quokkas.  There are deficiencies of Cobalt and Copper.  As you might expect with a deficiency of Cobalt, anaemia is common among the Quokkas. The anaemia problem is partly caused by deficiency of Nitrogen and lack of water during the summer.

Water

In the summer, both Nitrogen and water are limited.  In some areas there is no water and the Quokkas get their moisture from plants including the succulent plant called Pigface.

Humans also had problems with the lack of water on the island until a wind powered desalination plant was installed.

Observe the Animals

Years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Rottnest Island and see the Quokkas.  Tourists can observe them, but interference like feeding them is not allowed.

Quokkas as Pets?

Could a Quokka, be kept as a pet?

The Law

As the Law stands at present, no you cannot keep one as a pet.  The laws against keeping native Australian mammals as pets were introduced to protect the animals.  However, laws can be changed while still protecting the animals.

I think that the nearly blanket ban on keeping native Australian animals as pets needs to be re-examined.

Outside Pet

As far as I am aware, Quokkas cannot be toilet trained, although I also do not know if anyone has tried.  In my opinion, this animal is best regarded as an outside pet.

Space

I feel that the Quokka would require more space than most people would have available.  However, it is a fact that all animals have specific requirements and there is no single animal which would be a suitable pet for everyone.

For someone with a big backyard, this might be an excellent pet.

Fear of Humans

The Quokka seems to have no instinctive fear of Human Beings.  This can be a problem with the ones on Rottnest Island being too friendly with the tourists.

People will sometimes feed the Quokkas on the island.  This is not good for the animals.  People give them things like corn chips.  Many of the foods given to the Quokkas by well meaning tourists are not only bad for the animals, but are bad for Humans as well.

People get into trouble for interfering with the animals on Rottnest Island.  It is illegal, and this necessary law is enforced.  You could end up with a fine if you ignore it.

Petting

The Quokkas like being petted by people in the same ways as Cats and other more familiar pets do.  At Taronga Zoo the Quokkas have become very tame.

Feeding

As a pet, the best way of feeding your Quokka would probably be to choose the right sort of plants for your enclosed garden.  However, I would also expect the Wallaby and Kangaroo pellets already being manufactured in Australia by several companies to be a suitable supplementary food.

Demand

Many people who have come into contact with Quokkas want to keep them as pets.  If the law is changed, it will have to be done carefully.

Captive Breeding

If this animal is to be available as a pet, I feel that the better way of supplying them is to breed them in captivity, and not catch them in the wild.

Sources

http://www.australianfauna.com/quokka.php

http://www.kidcyber.com.au/topics/quokka.htm

http://teachit.acreekps.vic.edu.au/animals/quokka.htm

http://www.rottnestisland.com/en/About_Rottnest_Island/Flora_and_fauna/Pages/Quokkas.aspx

http://www.ccentre.wa.gov.au/index.cfm?event=heritageIconsMay

http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Diprotodontia/Macropodidae/Setonix/Setonix-brachyurus.html