Leisure & Culture #60

Ethical Selfies with The Happiest Animal In The World?

Rottnest Island

Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Joel Wong
photos by Kit Chan

Selfie culture has become a worldwide phenomenon in recent years. Picture this, under the bright blue sky, and from the green forest, here comes the little mystical creature that carries an adorable smile on its cute face. You cannot resist but taking a selfie with it and then post it on your social media account, gaining countless likes and shares. But behind such a peaceful scene, it hides an inconvenient truth awaits the world’s attention.

If you spent any time at all on the internet, you have likely seen the creature that has crowned “The Happiest Animal on Earth,” the quokka. They are Wallabies , also known as short-tail scrub wallaby and about the size of a domestic cat.

Quokka lives on an island off the Western Coast of Australia, with the largest population of quokkas found on Rottnest Island.

The Island was named by Dutch Explorer Willem De Vlamingh in the 17th Century, who equated quokka as giant rats and called the island Rottnest which derived from the Dutch word “Rotte Nest” meaning Rat Nets.

Back in 2012, the hashtag #quokkaselfie went viral, and ever since, Rottnest Island has seen a massive boom in tourism.

Photo source: Online images

But not until 2017 when Swiss Pro Tennis Player Roger Federer paid a visit to Rottnest Island and took a selfie with a quokka in the forest. That photo went viral afterwards and received a massive 5.8 Million likes within 2 weeks time, which also instantly quadruple the internet search rate of the place “Rottnest Island”. The Huffington Post of the United States is among the first who named Quokkas as “The Happiest Animal on Earth,” referring to their friendly nature and that cute smile on their faces.

In 2019, the popularity of the Happiest Animal reached its new highs.

Photo source: Online Image

In 2019, when Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor who plays Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also took a selfie with his wife and a Quokka in Rottnest Island, the popularity of the Happiest Animal reached its new highs. But not even the cutest pictures taken by the Tennis Champ nor The God of Thunder would show the world the truth – despite their apparent friendliness, quokkas are endangered animals listed under the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) and illegal to own one as a pet.

The quokka population on Rottnest Island estimated at around 12,000, which is about 85% of its total count, but the influx of tourists might cause harm to the species.

Some tourists pulled out crazy acts on the quokkas, such as giving them alcohol or throwing them up in the air, a French tourist was fined $4000 AUS by setting a quokka on fire.

Therefore, if you visit the Rottenest Island, please do not feed the quokkas, as human food is known to give them actinomycosis, which is a chronic bacterial disease commonly referred to as lumpy jaw. Quokkas are herbivores and primarily nocturnal, they prefer living in forest that had burnt down as that were all the best fresh growth can be found.

Although they have a great smile, quokkas have razor-sharp teeth.

When tourists provoking and bribing the quokkas with food in their quest for a selfie, they might get bitten and requires medical attention.

The question is, what makes a responsible and ethical traveler?

In recent years "ethical tourism" has become an intricate issue.

When we set foot in a foreign country, besides enjoying the scenery, the excellent food and local culture, are we doing more harm than good by purchasing souvenirs produced by local sweatshops which indirectly exploited the poor?

The answer is relatively simple: we are all part of the earth, and we must respect and protect each other, and this is something every one of us should practice, a universal value is also the basic principle of our view of the earth and life, no matter where we are.

Taking selfies with Quokka is not harmful at all; the key is how to do it right.

Here are some tips to proper selfies with little quokkas:

    。Get your Smile and camera ready;
    。Wait patiently and let them approach you;
    。Do not touch them otherwise you might get yourself some nasty disease;
    。Do not provoke and bribe them with water or food;
    。Use a selfie stick and keep a safe distance.
Don't get too overwhelmed while traveling. And be sure to capture the big picture through the tiny lens, providing the welfare of the nature and animals are not compromised.

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