IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Biology

On Rottnest Island this animal lives in small family groups, dominated by adult males who form a dominance hierarchy amongst themselves. This hierarchy is usually stable, though on hot summer days males have been known to fight amongst themselves for the best shelters (3). Quokkas sleep during the day in small groups amongst dense vegetation, becoming very active at night, when they gather around water holes with up to 150 other individuals. They feed on native grasses, leaves, seeds and roots, swallowing their food straight away, and later regurgitating the cud to chew it. They often dig their own water holes and can obtain water from succulent plants like cacti, though this species is in fact able to go for months without a drink, due to their remarkable ability to reuse some of their waste products (2). Extended periods without rain however lead to hot, dry conditions and dehydration, and it is the individuals furthest away from a water source that suffer the highest mortality (3). In addition, hot temperatures drain the plants of their water and nitrogen stores, creating problems of nitrogen deficiency in the wallabies (4). The quokka may suffer from dehydration but research has shown these wallabies have excellent thermoregulatory abilities, being able to cope with temperatures up to 44°C (4).  This wallaby produces one offspring per year, and while quokkas breed all year round in captivity, in the wild they only mate between January and March (3). After a short pregnancy of 4 weeks, a female will give birth to a single young known as a joey, which she suckles in her pouch for up to 30 weeks (2). By this stage the joey will have out-grown the pouch and has to leave, but will still suckle for a further 8 – 10 weeks, reaching maturity at around one year old and living for up to 5 years (3).

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