“Here, Quokka! Selfie Collectors Descend on Baffled Marsupials,” by Dan Strumpf. The Wall Street Journal, 5/19/2016.
You probably never heard of a quokka, but they are the shmoos of Western Australia (although they do not give milk, lay eggs, or taste like chicken). They are about the size of a cat with round ears, puppy-dog eyes, and a goofy grin. And they are curious with no fear of humans. They do have a hairless, rat-like tail that turns some people off, but most find them irresistibly adorable, as this photo shows, and getting a quokka-selfie is a current mass obsession. Stores in Perth are perpetually sold out of selfie-sticks.
The problem is quokkas also like human snacks, which are harmful for their health, as they are for us. Tell-tale signs are patchy fur, glassy eyes, and a general tired appearance (look at yourself in a mirror). Once they were common all throughout Australia, but now are found mainly on Rottnest Island, 11 miles off the Western Australian coast, where they attract tourists from nearby Perth. The tourists use snacks to draw them within selfie range. Rottnest Island was named by early Dutch explorers who mistook the quokkas for rats.
Feeding and touching them is illegal, and authorities are serious about it. Last year a pair of French tourists spent a week in jail when they filmed themselves setting a quokka on fire, proving not all ugly tourists are American.
What’s one less quokka? What’s two less French tourists? I am pleased to report, all three survived—wiser, I hope, from the experience, I kid you not.