My husband and his sister were wondering about the coming year. “Is it the year of the platypus or the year of the lobster?” asked Jeff.
“It’s the year of the tardigrade,” declared Amy.
“You’re both wrong,” I said. “It is the year of the quokka.”
With apologies to the Chinese zodiac, and the actual Year of the Ox (which starts on the eve of February 11), this spirited discussion was won by me. Because there are few things cuter than a quokka.
Quokkas were voted “World’s Happiest Animals” simply because that’s how they look. They look like they are always smiling, and they are ridiculously adorable. They are Australian marsupials, about the size of a house cat, and they are as inquisitive as they are cute.
The quokka, also known as the short-tailed scrub wallaby, is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal. They will bite, but generally mostly on accident, when trying to take food, and mostly from the children of tourists. They live on some of the small islands off the coast of Western Australia, particularly Rottnest Island, just off Perth and a few others. They also live on the mainland, but the last huge fire decimated their already small population.
They are promiscuous — they don’t stay with one partner, and can have up to two births per year. The babies, called joeys, live in their mother’s pouch for six months, and even after the joey leaves the pouch it relies on its mother’s milk for another two months. While they sound like good mothers, sometime quokka mothers are … well … terrible mothers. When pursued by a predator, the mother may drop her baby onto the ground. Knowing the joey produces cries and distressed noises, which serve to attract the predator’s attention, the mother escapes.
Selfies with quokkas became “the thing” to do by actors and other celebrities, and you may take one at some of Australian zoos, but only with supervision. I wouldn’t say a quokka selfie is on my bucket list, but when I’m in Australia, I am definitely going to try to do this trendy thing. It is simply the over-the-top cute factor.
I propose that we call the year 2021 the Year of the Quokka, because we can all use a bit of a happy, cute, animal … who, when cornered, would sacrifice her young to protect her cute self. Strike that last “Mommie Dearest” bit, and happy Quokka year!