MAR 20, 2015 07:07 AM PDT

Quokka Time!

A happy quokka poses for a selfie with a tourist on Rottnest Island Australia Until recently, many people outside of Australia had never heard of the quokka, a Muppet-cute (despite its beady eyes and rat's tail) marsupial with an irresistible smile.

But this week, people's selfies with the furry critter (its name rhymes with mocha) have charmed the Internet.
Rottnest Island is the only place quokkas still come together in large numbers: There are as many as 12,000 of them there, of fewer than 14,000 total in the wild-down from probably many tens of thousands in their heyday. The animals that don't seem to mind posing for pictures with squealing tourists. More than 500,000 people visit the 7.3-square-mile (18.9-square-kilometer) Rottnest every year. It's a hopping place.

Quokkas have fared better than many species, but they still need help, and conservationists are on the job. Recovery efforts-whose goal is to at least maintain the animals' current numbers and distribution-have focused mainly on controlling predators and better managing the quokkas' forest and island habitat. On quokka-heavy Rottnest, that also means ensuring camera-wielding tourists aren't overstepping their bounds. If all goes well, these photogenic critters will be smiling for years to come.

(Source: National Geographic)
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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