A world first TedX Talk? You quokka be kidding me!

We’re proud to say Perth Zoo’s native fauna keeper, Steve Catwell, has delivered the first ever TedX Talk on WA’s beloved quokka!

We are SO proud of Steve and his TedX Talk – it’s educational, hilarious, heart-warming and at times heart-breaking. But don’t take our word for it, watch it for yourself. 

The talk explores how Steve’s childhood connection with the small marsupial paved the way for him to follow a career in animal science and conservation at Perth Zoo. 

Now, as one of our senior zookeepers, Steve not only works with the quokkas in our care, but he is the quokka species coordinator for the entire country. 

“As the quokka species coordinator, I manage the breeding and genetics of all the quokkas within zoos and wildlife parks across Australia,” Steve said. 

“I grew up in Perth and I regularly attended Rottnest Island as a child with my family, I have so many fond memories with the quokka and ultimately these great connections with wildlife encouraged me to work with animals.

“It’s a privilege to be able to work with one of my favourite animals and ensure we continue to have a strong, genetically diverse population for future generations.”

And it’s not just Steve who fell in love with this native treasure! The quokka ‘smile’ has taken the world by storm, with a photo opportunity becoming a bucket list item to tick off on a trip to WA. 

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned visitors to Rottnest Island will offer up human food to a begging quokka without understanding the very real repercussions. 

“Quokkas are incredibly cute, so it’s not surprising the world has become absolutely charmed by them,” Steve said. 

“In the TedX Talk, I wanted to encourage people to have those magic moments with the quokkas, but to refrain from giving them snacks that can cause health problems. 

“It’s really important to remember not to be tempted by that quokka cuteness. A quokka is always going to want that chip in your hand,  but it’s really not good for them!”

But beyond the famous population on Rottnest Island, there is another population of quokkas living in the south-west that are facing tougher times.  

“There are hardly any quokkas left on the mainland, there’s only roughly between 3000-4000 on the compared to over 12,000 on Rottnest Island,” Steve said. 

“And the main reason for such a disparity in those populations is humans.

“As the human population has grown in Perth, the quokka mainland population has declined with reduced, fragmented habitat.

“I really hope that this talk will spark more conversations about the mainland quokka, it would be devastating if we were to lose the population.”

Many people are unaware of the plight of the mainland quokkas, making Steve’s educational talk a must-watch for all. Why? Because no West Australian wants to imagine a world without quokkas.