The quokka is famous for being one of the most photogenic animals on Earth. An Australian relative of kangaroos and wallabies, quokkas are tiny, fluffy, and always seem to have a smile on their face. They are also considered a vulnerable species. In order to raise awareness of their precarious status, conservationists are using the quokka's reputation for being "the happiest animal in the world" to their advantage.
As Great Big Story explains in its video below, Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia is a hot spot for quokka selfies. Tourists from around the world flock to the island to snap a picture with one of the 10,000 quokkas who live there, and as a result, the quokka has become a viral sensation.
The fact that the quokka is an internet celebrity means that conservationists have an easier time than ever getting regular people to care about their fate as a species. On Rottnest Island, the animals are isolated from predators, but on the mainland, quokka populations are under threat from cats, foxes, and human activities like logging. Every selfie shared helps raise awareness of the species.
But you do have to follow some rules before posing for a picture with a quokka on Rottnest Island. For instance, anyone who touches or feeds one of the animals is subject to a fine of 150 Australian dollars (around $110 in the U.S.)—and possibly the wrath of the quokkas, which have been known to attack people when threatened.
And don't be so flattered when it looks happy to see you: That smile isn't a smile at all. It's just the way its face looks.
[h/t Great Big Story]