Don't mock a quokka
January 11, 2013 4:50 PM   Subscribe

When 17th-century Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh encountered what he described as "a kind of rat as big as a common cat" on on island off the western coast of Australia, he quickly dubbed it "Rats' Nest". Despite the insult, these marsupials aren't known to hold a grudge: the Quokkas, native to what is still known as Rottnest Island and nearby isles, are some of the happiest-looking, most inquisitive furry critters around.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
They are also some bad motherfuckers if you're starting out as a summoner in Stone Soup Dungeon Crawl. I had four of them clobber an out-of-level orc armed and armored to the teeth. (And a crapload of bats flying around uselessly)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

To the teeth, you say?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:12 PM on January 11, 2013

Yeah quokkas are legendary little dudes and dudettes, a pity they'll be extinct soon probably. But that's okay, we have like three new free-to-air TV stations. Swings and roundabouts, y'know.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:42 PM on January 11, 2013

Oh my. That is an adorable creature!
posted by dejah420 at 5:55 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do they bite and do they carry diseases.
posted by polymodus at 5:56 PM on January 11, 2013

Quokkas are awesome. It's a shame these cute little guys have to put up with drunken schoolies playing that hideous sport known as 'quokka soccer' with them every year. (And yes, it is what you think it is.) I would love for one of those little punks to be jailed for it. Quokkas make me miss Rotto, but hopefully they won't go extinct, apparently there are other pockets of them in mainland WA.
posted by Jubey at 5:59 PM on January 11, 2013

Holy smokes those are cute.
posted by azpenguin at 6:04 PM on January 11, 2013

Not to be confused with the quagga, an extinct type of zebra and mid-level monster in Rogue.
posted by JHarris at 6:04 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ohhh he's like kangaroo, ratty, and a little bit of fox all bundled up in one adorable!
I want one.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:08 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

My brain can't stop flip-flopping on these guys. Giant rat -- yikes. Tiny kangaroo -- adorable. Giant rat -- ew. Tiny kangaroo -- awww.

Faces / Vases, y'know
posted by vytae at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like the quokka munching a cracker. He should have a proper white wine to go with it and perhaps some cheese. An aged nutty Cheddar would work well, I think.
posted by Skygazer at 6:24 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's a shame these cute little guys have to put up with drunken schoolies playing that hideous sport known as 'quokka soccer' with them every year. (And yes, it is what you think it is.)

I don't suppose there's any chance it means "find 22 of these little guys and let them have at it with a miniature soccer ball," because otherwise, that's really messed up.
posted by juv3nal at 6:33 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apparently Vlamingh had never seen a Coypu. That description fits them beautifully.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:36 PM on January 11, 2013

Ha. I just yesterday refound a pic of me feeding one of these mega-cute little buggers in '98. Rottnest Is, West Aussie. *is* a fabulous place to visit but, unless you have helicopter fare, the ferry ride over is one of those not-so-calm ones, to put it mildly.
posted by peacay at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2013

Oh my God the video with the Quokka sniffing the camera.

*SNURF SNURF SNURF SNURF whufflewhufflewhufflewhuffle*
posted by louche mustachio at 7:51 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Quokkas are, indeed, awesome close up. They're like Australian meerkats.

'Quokka soccer' is sadly a thing people do, sometimes, because the quokkas are as fearless as the Quokka eating a cracker video suggests.

(Incidentally, the Quokka makes it to the Blue in the same week a severed head washed up on the beach at Rottnest? Co-incidence... or something more sinister?)
posted by Mezentian at 9:00 PM on January 11, 2013

Oooh! Shiny eyes and moist nosicles! I die.

Pardon me - I got some Cute Overload in my MetaFilter.
posted by peagood at 10:12 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sticking my head up to take issue with some of the content of that Perth Zoo link and have a bit of a rant..

Quokkas live both on Rottnest and Garden Islands in a pair of reasonably large and secure populations, and on the mainland, in a series of tiny and widely dispersed colonies. Colonies of mainland quokkas tend to center around streamside vegetation in thick wet old growth forest. Such habitats provide them with water, fodder, nesting locations and some protection from feral fox and cat predation.

The question of whether mainland quokkas are a seperate sub-species, or whether they're just a morphologically distinct race of Setonix brachyuris is not yet settled (although we do know that there is genetic variation, and that the island populations are inbred and likely to be unsuitable for reintroduction to the mainland). So despite mainland numbers possibly now being as low as 5-600, we can't get them on state, federal or IUCN level as critically endangered.

We've seen their range and numbers contract southwards and shrink rapidly in recent years due to a drying climate, forest disease, draining of swamps for coastal urban development, and increasingly frequent and hot fires through the northern part of our south west forests.

Despite dwindling population numbers and increasingly unviable colony sizes, we have no translocation programs for colonies under imminent threat. We have no captive breeding programs.

We've also seen much loss of critical habitat to logging operations (typically followed by hot burns), which are projected to increase dramatically should the current government be returned at the next state election (March 9). Last summer and again this summer, we've seen the logging of what was most likely their northernmost remaining stronghold - Arcadia Forest south-west of Collie - and almost certainly the extinction of the colony there.

It's something various groups fought on nearly every imaginable front - from community organization and parliamentary petitions to blockading logging operations to forcing surrounding shire councils to place restrictive permits on the size and capacity of unsafe trucks coming out of Arcadia in an attempt to make logging there economically unviable. We lost. Some of us paid terrible personal prices for getting involved in the fight.

My apologies for the facebook link (and for the fact that some of the photos are mine), but here is some of what we got up to.

As an aside, south west Western Australian forest logging is already economically unviable because native forest logging here is subsidised by the state government to such a degree (about 10-15 million dollars a year supporting approximately 400 jobs) that about 85 percent of the biomass of our Jarrah forests is simply burnt in post logging burns, sold as firewood, or sold for the production of charcoal and industrial activated charcoal. Of the 15 percent remaining, as much as a third goes towards the production of railway sleepers.

1st grade saw logs directed towards either industrial charcoal mills or sleeper mills have hit prices as low as $7-11 a tonne in recent years. Subsidies and government supply guarantees distort the market to a point where wood is essentially free for major players. Yet Jarrah is widely acclaimed as one of the world's most beautiful and durable cabinet making timbers. Craftsmen who use it for such purposes pay major mills hundreds of dollars a tonne on secondary markets.

Anyway.. while the Perth Zoo link trumpets the success of Department of Environment and Conservation fox baiting programs as a measure that is bringing back quokkas on the mainland, it isn't bringing them back at a rate equivalent to that at which they're being lost.

Finally, for the record, DEC supervisors are always present on the ground during logging operations, and I've direct experience of them flatly refusing to stop operations affecting stream beds even when presented with dead quokkas. Instead their response has been to threaten us with arrest for illegally taking wildlife without a permit (it's technically illegal here to even touch a dead native animal carcass unless you're licensed to do so).

So as turgid dahlia 2 says above, the mainland population is likely to face extinction in just a few years.

Happiest animals on earth, indeed..
posted by Ahab at 12:34 AM on January 12, 2013 [19 favorites]

Ahab, excellent comment.

I was charmed by the little guys while on Rottnest before Christmas (all thanks to MeFite honey-barbara and her friends, by the way!), but never saw any on the mainland. The ones in Perth Zoo seemed noticeably smaller and shyer, but then I also visited the zoo on a 43°C afternoon, so there was that.

While we crossed many quokka, I never noticed any "smiling". They mostly took their morning tea (they love to nibble on the Rottnest Island Tea Trees, to the point where young trees have to be protected by covers) and kept out of the way of humans apart from the few brave ones who checked out the Hotel Rottnest restaurant-bar.

All of these photos were on Rottnest:
- First quokka I met
- Quokka joey and hoppity adult
- Drowsy quokka in the sun
- Vegetation and quokka, for a sense of scale
- Joey taking its morning tea
- Rottnest Island Tea Tree closeup

I also shot a video of a fearsome quokka attack in the Hotel Rottnest restaurant. Those are my Birkenstocked feet that it very nearly devoured. (Joking. It just kept coming back to sniff us.)
posted by fraula at 12:55 AM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love them so much. Ahab, I had no idea they were so endangered, that's terrible. Perth Zoo does a lot of work in conservation, but I suppose whoever is in charge of making the videos is more interested in PR than accuracy.
posted by harriet vane at 2:55 AM on January 12, 2013

I don't believe they exist.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:19 AM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

At first, I thought those were friendly rodents that could almost walk on two feet, and I was worried that enslavement by our new rodent overlords was imminent.

Luckily, they are marsupials.
posted by gjc at 4:29 AM on January 12, 2013

We need a Muppet quokka. Could give Fozzie a run for his money.

...I'll get my coat.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 7:09 AM on January 12, 2013

At first, I thought this was about the quagga, but they're extinct.
posted by jonp72 at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2013

Gee whiz those are cute. Having learned they exist enhances my life.
posted by (F)utility at 10:38 PM on January 12, 2013

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