Southwest Australia is one of the many biodiversity hotspots on the globe, which is home to many endangered species encompassing plants, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. I will be focusing on a little obscure mammal called the quokka.

The quokka is a small herbivorous macropod about the size of a domestic house cat. The quokka is mainly nocturnal inhabiting some small islands off the western Australian Coast, particularly Rottnest Island which is the home of the largest population just off Perth and Bald Island near Albany. There is also a small mainland colony in the protected area of Two People’s Bay.

The quokka is now currently endangered due to the introduction of predatory animals to their habitats, such as dogs, foxes, dingoes, cats, and birds of prey that are naturally attracted to large human settlements. These large human settlements are also they themselves a problem for the quokkas because their borders are encroaching upon the quokkas mainland habitats.

Though the quokka population had been thriving on Rottnest Island thanks to a lack of Red Foxes, there are now concerns human development may now be endangering one of the last bastions of safety the quokkas have left. The quokka is currently classified, as being a vulnerable species, however, now is the time to act before the populations of this species become critical.

Southwest Australia supports a very small population of endemic birds; of the 285 types of birds present on the island, only 12 are endemic.  Various factors contribute to the fluctuating numbers, and many of the species are threatened or endangered.

There are a number of different species of parrots on the island, one of which is the Long-Billed Black Cockatoo. However, the Long-Billed Black Cockatoo’s population is declining in number due to deforestation, and competition over nesting sites with bees. In addition, because of the heavy deforestation in the area, the birds are forced to inhabit orchards. The caretakers often shoot the birds, seeing them as pests. The decreasing numbers is the case for many species of birds in the region, and the current number of (mature) Long-Billed Black Cockatoos in the area is only around 1,000-2,500. (There is actually a much higher amount of the species on the island, but they have not yet reached maturity and cannot breed.)

The Noisy-Scrub bird is also endemic to Australia, but the population was so small that for many years it was considered to be extinct. In the 1960’s, the species was discovered as existing, although in limited numbers. As a result of efforts made by conservationists, the Noisy Scrub bird has increased in population, although it is still under threat due to forest fires in the area. It is currently classified as a “Vulnerable” species (as of 2008), rather than a “Threatened” species in 1988.

The Western Swamp Turtle is the smallest Australian tortoise with the
length of 5.5 in. and the weight ranging from 10 to 14 oz. It usually
has a white/yellow coloring on the bottom of the shell and a brownish
coloring on top. Their habitats are in shallow waters, and edges of
swamp where they feed on tadpoles, insect larvae, field shrimps, and
oligochaete worms for the brief time they’re active. For most of the
dry year they’re asleep in a whole and only come down during cold
rain/winter. This species is endangered and only found in 2 locations
of Western Australia: the Ellen Brooks Nature Reserve and the Twin
Swamps Nature Reserve.

Four factors are what is contributing to their extinction:   People use
their swamp lands for agriculture use by draining them. They’re
demolished by brush fires and are prey for animals such as birds,
snakes, and lizards, dogs, cats, rats, and most especially foxes.
Located in the city of Perth is the zoo where a captive breeding
project has been in the works since 1988. And since 1989, they’re been
able to successfully breed 459 tortoises. The Western Swamp Turtle
Recovery Plan since 1992, aims to at least double the population
within 10 years. And to assist in this goal, there is now fox-proof
fences constructed around the remaining swaps to protect these
tortoises’ habitats.

Citations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quokka

http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/australia/Pages/biodiversity.aspx

http://a-z-animals.com/animals/quokka/

http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=1390

http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/australia/Pages/biodiversity.aspx

http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/146069/0

http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/142430/0

http://australian-animals.net/swamp.htm

http://www.arkive.org/western-swamp-turtle/pseudemydura-umbrina/

By Amanda, Rachel and Timothy

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3 responses »

  1. April Manuel says:

    I’ve never heard of the “Quokka” until reading this post. I am interested to learn more about them. It is such a cute and small creature. It reminds me of the Capybara. I hope that human development will not continue to destroy their habitat. It’s sad to know that they are endangered and could be gone soon. In the post I noticed it says, “Now is the time to act before the populations of this species become critical.” I wonder what we could do to help? Hopefully people will realize we need to help these small helpless creatures and take care of our endangered species.

  2. There was a lot written about the Quokka’s habitat and why they’re becoming endangered, but I’d like to hear more about what they actually are and what they do, which seems to be absent from this study. Not only is the Quokka under-described, but so is Australia’s Western Swamp Turtle, not much is said about it other than it being the smallest tortoise in Australia and the fact that it’s endangered. Other than that it just sounds like a normal turtle with a white/yellowish under shell and brown upper half. Anyways, it’s still interesting to hear that these two animals are in danger of becoming extinct, but I’d like to know more about them overall.

  3. kristysiciliano says:

    Thats so sad about the quokka, they’re so cute ! Even though i’ve never heard of them before. I feel so sorry for them, then again i feel sorry for any animal that is losing its habitat or any that are endangered, it’s not fair to them at all.

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