Do quokkas throw their babies?
In 2013, the quokka, also known as the ‘happiest animal on earth,’ rose to fame for its friendly behavior and irresistible smile, which prompted the popular social media trend #quokkaselfie.
This Australian marsupial has become one of the main tourist attractions of Rottnest Island, where thousands of people visit to snap their photos with one of these adorable creatures.
Recently, however, the quokka has been labelled as a ‘bad parent’ on social media with posts stating that female quokkas throw their babies at predators to protect themselves. But are these allegations true?
Where did these allegations originate?
In 2018, the quokka rose in popularity on social media once again, but this time not for their adorable smiles.
Instead, in an effort to console mothers and their parenting styles, people began sharing memes of the quokka, calling into question the animal’s parenting technique.
These memes quickly traveled across social media, reading, “Think you’re a bad parent? A mother quokka will throw her baby at a predator to protect herself”.
This statement originated in June of 2018 when Sad Animal Facts shared a meme on Twitter with the caption: “I’ve got some upsetting news about quokkas.” The post read, “A mother quokka will throw her baby at a predator to defend herself.”
Today, this meme continues to circulate social media in an attempt to console ‘bad parents.’ But is there any truth to these allegations?
The answer is… yes and no.
No, quokkas do not physically throw their babies at predators.
For one, the quokka’s arms are incredibly short. They do not have enough power to physically throw their young to escape danger.
However, according to a scientific research paper published in 2005, the female quokka will expel her offspring from her pouch when threatened by a predator. This has been identified as an anti-predator characteristic that allows mother quokkas to escape danger, as the noise made by her young attracts the attention of the predator.
The paper stated that when researchers approached females quokkas, the creatures would flee, during which larger young would be expelled from their pouches. Considering the strong muscular control female quokkas have over their pouches, this response has been identified as behavioral rather than accidental.
Similar behaviors have also been identified in other marsupials, including the grey kangaroo and the swamp wallaby.
Quokkas do not have any predators on Bald Island. They are also heavily protected by the Australian government, which means that they do not use this survival instinct very often. Although quokkas do face threats from some predators on Rottnest Island, this response has never been officially observed or documented in the wild.
So, yes, the quokka’s reputation as a bad parent is partly justifiable.
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