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Social media star quokkas attracting tourists to Rottnest Island

Tourists take pictures of a quokka on Rottnest.
Quokkas are the star attraction on Rottnest Island, popular with West Australians and foreigners.

ABC: Cy Millington

The West Australian quokka has been described as the happiest animal in the world, and even sparked an online selfie craze.

It was an article on The Huffington Post website that seemed to kickstart the quokka selfie craze in 2012.

Since then, the number of tourists visiting Rottnest Island, 20 kilometres off the Perth coast, has increased by 20 per cent.

And a recent scientific study of the quokka population on Rottnest shows the animal is thriving.

The Rottnest Island Authority's (RIA) Holly Knight says the marsupials have seen a meteoric rise in popularity from when early Europeans first arrived on the island in 1658 and mistook them for huge rats.

"Now they're one of the most well-known animals on social media," Ms Knight says.

"It's an incredibly friendly animal that attracts more and more international visitors every year."

- Holly Knight

While the RIA had been unable to draw a direct link between the internet trend and tourist numbers, it suspects the quokka has become the island's biggest drawcard.

"We know that there's a huge community out there on social media who say they're coming to the island to see the quokka," Ms Knight says.

Australia Wide's Charlotte Hamlyn visits Rottnest to see how the quokkas are coping with the extra attention.

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