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Cuteness Break: The Genial Quokka Steals Scenes And Hearts

A photo from the Taronga Zoo shows a 6-month-old quokka, a marsupial that's a hit on social media.
Taronga Zoo
A photo from the Taronga Zoo shows a 6-month-old quokka, a marsupial that's a hit on social media.

We'll get back to the day's serious news soon — but for now, we wanted to be sure you're aware of the insanely cute quokka, a small furry animal that in recent months has become a favorite photo partner in Australia.

The quokka had a flurry of fame in 2013, when it was called "the happiest animal in the world" due to the natural (and photogenic) curl of its mouth and what seems to be a friendly nature. Now people are taking photos with the marsupial that lives in southwestern Australia.

On Instagram and Twitter, the #quokkaselfie hashtag has collected images that prove that while the quokka is cute, it also has some emotional range. But in most of the photos, the marsupial appears front and center, adding its enigmatic smile to an image of happy tourists.

The quokka is "found in abundance on Rottnest Island off Perth, western Australia where the current population on the island is estimated to be 10,000," according to the Arkive website. It adds that although the quokka was once considered extinct on Australia's mainland, it has since rebounded somewhat.

The quokka is currently listed as "Vulnerable" — one spot below endangered — on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

And despite its cute appearance, the animal also has a wild side, as the folks at Mental Floss tell us:

"Teddy-bear ears and doe eyes aside, these animals are ready, willing, and able to fend for themselves. Each year, the Rottnest Island infirmary treats dozens of patients — mostly children — for quokka bites."

The site also tells the tale of a would-be rescuer who was taking an unconscious quokka to get medical help — when it revived and jumped on his neck before chomping on his ear.

We spotted this breaking quokka-selfie-news at Mashable.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.