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Quokkas

eniac mailing list / July 1989
By Paola Kathuria

This should explain what quokkas are (RE: re: Re:^634 The Walk on the Moon).

Over a year ago, when I was at college, one of our staff left to work at the university in Perth, Australia. Our department was such that we tried to hold a party for the staff and post-graduates whenever we could and Kevin's leaving seemed like a good reason to dip into the funds to buy some booze.

A few hours into this gathering, I found myself amongst a little group seated around Kevin. We were all a little drunk so I hope you shall read this with that in mind. If you don't think it's funny my disclaimer is [shrug] "you had to be there".

Kevin was telling us about some of the stuff he'd received from the Australian tourist board, which he'd sent off for to get some idea of what to expect. He told us of one animal which slept in trees which they sometimes fell out of. Apparently, this was so common that the guide asked tourists to avoid walking under trees in case a quokka should fall on them.

We laughed and then thought that the quokka must be very stupid if it can fall out of a tree and not learn to change its sleeping habits. Someone suggested that the quokka did not actually fatally injure itself because otherwise the quokka would soon be extinct. We reckoned, then, that because quokkas still slept in trees, that they don't get hurt when falling out of them, so they must fall on something soft. We wondered if perhaps they fell on people's heads on purpose or if some of the mischievous quokkas waited until one was dozing off then push it out. We had great fun with this, taking it as far as we could and trying to be good scientists at the same time. We developed a whole theory of quokka behaviour. I logged into a nearby terminal and produced this advertisement and pinned it on the notice board:

ONCE IN A LIFETIME OFFER!

The Guaranteed all-year round TOURIST DETERRENT

Yes, invest in a cuddly quokka, deceptively cute and innocent, and you need never worry again about unmanageable numbers of tourists.

This wide-eyed Australian marsupial has been genetically engineered by Scientists to sleep in trees along the tourists' thoroughfares.

It can detect approaching tourists at a distance of seven meters by the virtue of ultra-sensitive ears and nose and this triggers off the 'Falling Asleep' behaviour. On the passing of the tourist under the tree the quokka will, in a state of semi- consciousness, drop from its position and land on the unsuspecting tourist's head.

Neither the tourist nor the quokka is seriously harmed by this encounter -- the quokka will return to the tree for a full and satisfying sleep with the knowledge of a job well done and the tourist is guaranteed never to return.

Only $500 per month hire.

A QUOKKA A DAY KEEPS THE TOURISTS AT BAY

We didn't really believe that such an animal existed so Kevin showed us a picture of a quokka which accompanied some blurfl.

I have a copy of the page here. It's about a little island off Perth. It starts "When you come to the Golden West, take time to visit Rottnest Island" and later continues with "Swim or go snorkelling in the calm, clear waters of the bays -- surrounded by colourful reefs -- or find a quiet place in the sun on a secluded beach ... Come sunset, have a chat to a quokka. These friendly marsupials are unique to Rottnest Island."

The picture (titled "A Quokka") shows, what looks at first glance, like a kangaroo. The hair is quite coarse and thick and the head is similar to that of a fox. It's hard to tell the colour or the size of the quokka since I photocopied it from the original which I can't remember. From the shading it looks as if its hair has dark brown roots which grow into a lighter shade. It's sitting on its back legs and holding its front limbs in front, hence the likeness with a kangaroo.

Epilogue.

A few weeks after Kevin had moved his family over he sent me a couple of pages out of a local newspaper. It was a fictionalised story about a quokka and a man traveling the country. The quokka was seen as a dirty animal which terrorised people and farm animals. Kevin also said that they had some quokkas in labs at the university since they were used for experiments. It rather threw our cute picture we had created out of the window, but most of us remember quokkas with fondness.

Paola