The quokka, the only member of the genus Setonix, is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as the kangaroos and wallabies), the quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal.
It can be found on some smaller islands off the coast of Western Australia, in particular on Rottnest Island just off Perth and Bald Island near Albany.
A small mainland colony exists in the protected area of Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, where they co-exist with Gilbert’s potoroo.
The quokka was one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europeans. The Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote of sighting “a wild cat” on Rottnest Island in 1658.
In 1696, Willem de Vlamingh mistook them for giant rats and named the island “Rotte nest”, which comes from the Dutch words rattennest meaning “rat nest”.
The word quokka is derived from a Nyungar word, which was probably gwaga.
The quokka weighs 2.5 to 5 kilograms (5.5 to 11.0 lb) and is 40 to 90 centimetres (16 to 35 in) long with a 25 to 30 centimetres (9.8 to 11.8 in)-long tail, which is fairly short for a macropod.
It has a stocky build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head.
Although looking rather like a very small kangaroo, it can climb small trees and shrubs. Its coarse fur is a grizzled brown colour, fading to buff underneath.
The quokka has no fear of humans and it is common for it to approach them closely, particularly on Rottnest Island.
It is, however, illegal for members of the public on Rottnest Island to handle the animals in any way.