But this man's selfie with one, who appeared to be smiling, may have been a big helping hand.
The photo went viral and has attracted a lot of people. Hence, since then, visitations in the Rottnest Island where these critters live have been booming as they also wanted to take a picture with the seemingly smiling animal.
For those who don’t know, a quokka is a nocturnal marsupial, the smallest members of the macropods or “big foot” which included wallabies and kangaroos. They live mostly in the southwestern part of mainland Australia like Perth but the quokkas had specifically flourished in the Rottnest Island because of the influx of tourists that single selfie has enticed.
Rottnest is “rat’s nest” in Dutch, but in the island, quokkas are beginning to act like one. "They’re meant to be nocturnal, but they've altered their activity patterns so that they’re awake during the day to be around tourists and scavenge food from tourists,” says Veronica Phillips, a wildlife biologist.
Philips 2016 study even found that quokkas in the island are in better condition than their counterparts in the mainland. All the leftover food and crumbs helps quokkas make it through the summer months. And about 13 to 20 percent of these quokkas live around the country club, depending on the season.
But a huge concentration of animals in a small area can make diseases spread easily and increases the competition for food. The Rottnest Island Authority is even considering putting fences around the golf course. Conservation officer Cassyanna Gray from the Rottnest Island Authority says that it’s risky to have so many animals in one place, and quokkas are becoming too dependent on an artificial food source.
However, scientists say that the real threat to quokkas is climate change. A 2010 study even showed that if global temperatures keep rising, these happy animals would be extinct by 2070. As these marsupials depend on lush vegetation for hiding spots and take-outs, they also rely on the wettest areas of their habitat. And if rainfall isn’t as frequent as it should be, these biomes would dry up.
“I’m not too worried about tourism,” Phillips says. “I am very worried about climate change.”
So am I Phillips, so am I.
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