Meet the Aussie animal that’s as cute as it is rare. Only found in small numbers in the south-west corner of Western Australia, the quokka looks like a cat-sized kangaroo — but they’re more friendly than your average roo, happy to bound up to humans for a selfie (even tennis ace Roger Federer posed for one!). Rottnest Island is the best place to meet these nocturnal marsupials, with a resident population of 10,000.
If its eyes were any bigger, the sugar glider would look like a living, breathing, real-life version of a Pokemon. This adorable possum has a membrane connecting its forelegs and hind legs that allows it to glide through the air, floating around the trees of the north and east coasts of Australia.
When British biologist George Shaw first laid eyes on the platypus in 1799, he wrote that he thought it was a hoax, and even used a pair of scissors to examine whether some skilled taxidermist had sewn a duck’s bill onto a beaver’s body. Scientists eventually learned that this semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal was indeed very real, inhabiting the east of Australia.
These four-legged marsupials are so roly-poly it was almost like they were designed to be cuddled. Wombats are found waddling around wooded areas of south-eastern Australia and you can spot their habitat by their distinctive cube-shaped poo, which scatters the bush like little brown dice.
Sharks, crocodiles, jellyfish, stingrays… there’s no shortage of scary animals swimming around Australia’s waterways, but the sea lion isn’t one of them. The puppies of the sea occupy the waters around the south-west coast of the country, and you can even splash around with these inquisitive, friendly seals off the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
No, this doesn’t just refer to Skippy hiding in the forest — the tree-kangaroo is its own distinct arboreal species that’s native to the rainforests of tropical Far North Queensland. There are 14 known subspecies of tree-kangaroo but, sadly, the population is in perilous decline due to hunting and the destruction of habitat.
Fluffy ears, puppy dog eyes, big button nose, cuddly body, the kind of sleepy demeanour that comes with sleeping 20 hours a day… what’s not to love about the koala? The adored tree-dwelling marsupial is found right along the east and south coast of Australia — basically anywhere they can find a gum tree to laze around in all day.
British colonisation killed one species of bilby but another strain of these desert-dwelling, pointy-eared, long-nosed marsupials has survived in Central Australia, although they are considered endangered. In fact, many Australians tuck into chocolate bilbies each Easter as a conservation effort, replacing the traditional rabbit, which is a devastating pest Down Under.
Echidnas are so cute that you still want to give them a hug despite knowing that they’re covered with thousands of sharp spikes. Australia’s most widespread native mammal, the four species of echidna are the only surviving monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on earth, alongside the platypus.
We couldn’t leave the national symbol off this list of Australia’s cutest animals — and they’re not hard to spot around the country at the moment as the population booms past the 50 million mark, outnumbering humans two to one. An adorable appearance hasn’t saved Skippy from ending up on the dinner plate, though, with experts encouraging Aussies to get some kangaroo meat on their forks to combat the over-population problem.