Thursday, 19 January 2017

Quokka escapes Rottnest Island on garbage barge, sparking fears for survival

Search under way after marsupial startles recycling centre worker who thought it was a large rat

Thursday 12 January 2017 03.11 GMT Last modified on Thursday 12 January 2017 22.41 GMT

Authorities in Western Australia are searching for a quokka that apparently escaped Rottnest Island in a rubbish bin and reemerged on the mainland, startling a recycling centre worker who thought it was a “large rat”.

Native to WA and famous for smiling happily in selfies, quokkas were largely eradicated on the mainland and survived thanks to a large, isolated population on Rottnest Island, a prison camp turned popular holiday destination off the coast of Perth.

They roam free around the island, which is devoid of both cars and large predators, and authorities fear the escaped quokka will not survive an encounter with these new threats.
Reports of the escapee emerged on 10 January, when a WA man working at the recycling centre in Cannington, in Perth’s southern suburbs, realised the blurry photos of a “large rat” presented by his South African colleague were in fact a quokka.

It is a common mistake: Rottnest got its name from Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh who named it Rotte nest, or rat’s nest, in 1696.

Penni Fletcher-Hughes, from Rottnest Island Authority, said it appeared the quokka had climbed into a garbage bin in search of food and was accidentally transferred on to the garbage barge, which took it to Cannington.

“Being as it has got itself in a very good place for food, the chances are it will be fine,” Fletcher-Hughes said. “It just depends where it goes from there.”

Quokka escape was “very unusual,” Fletcher-Hughes said, but finding quokkas in bins is not.
Basically, this quokka is now at large.

“I have seen them climb the walls; they are quite resourceful when it comes to searching for food,” she said. “We are not concerned in terms of him finding food … it’s other threats and just general stress. It’s a bit stressful to suddenly wake up in a recycling centre.”

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