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Nature & Wildlife

Boorn Boodja / Woodland

The island’s unique woodland habitat is a delight to explore.

Rottnest Island pine trees, tea trees, and wattle trees provide shelter to countless species of bush birds, including the beautiful golden whistler, red-capped robin, silvereye, and singing honeyeaters.

At night, the island’s white-striped free-tailed bat population comes to life. These nocturnal creatures can be tricky to spot in the tree canopy, but are easily heard thanks to their unique echolocation calls.

Since 1963, the Rottnest Island Authority has been undertaking woodland restoration to preserve this threatened ecological community. Restoration activities include seed collection, propagation (plant reproduction), planting and weed control. 

Learn the Noongar names

Maro
Rottnest Island pine tree

Moonah
Rottnest Island tea tree

Kwoka
Quokka

Birin-birin
Rainbow bee-eater

Balyan Boodja / Wetlands 

The island wetlands are made up of an intricate network of salt lakes, brackish swamps, and small freshwater holes (or wet spots called seeps). Fed by winter rainfall and groundwater that moves to the surface from the underground aquifer, the wetlands cover more than ten per cent of the island. 

A favourite area for birdwatchers, Australian shelducks, bridled and crested terns, waders, and red-necked phalarope are visible at nearly every turn. It’s also a sanctuary for other island wildlife, especially amphibians. Hard to see but easy to hear, the moaning frog, motorbike frog, and squelching froglets are among the local residents. 

The wetlands sustain life on the island, supporting all the other ecosystems. Up to 19 freshwater and saltwater invertebrate families live in the wetland system, providing food for reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. The wetlands also provide vital resources for migratory shorebirds, including over 1% of the world’s population of banded stilts.

Learn more about the lakes and salt lakes 

Learn the Noongar names

Kabikarning
Salt lake

Milya
Samphire

Monop-mart
Bridled tern

Nyimarak
Shelduck

Boardwalk along the salt lakes
Boardwalk along the salt lakes

Ngobar djooraly / Scrub Heath

Known for its signature salty-sweet smell, the scrub heath is one of the biggest habitats on the island, covering more than half of Wadjemup. 

As the woodland disappeared over the years, the heathland began to dominate with its dense covering providing a refuge for reptiles like bobtails and the king skink. A number of birds also live freely amongst the prickle lily and feather speargrass, which grow undisturbed thanks to the quokka’s natural aversion to the plants.

 

Beware of snakes
Be aware there are poisonous snakes on Wadjemup / Rottnest Island. The dugite is a timid creature, but may bite if harassed. If bitten, seek immediate medical assistance.

Learn the Noongar names

Ngalkaniny
Nankeen kestrel

Yoorn
Bobtail

Dookatj
Dugite

Dek-koordiny-mart
Wadjemup daisy

Ngobar / Coastal 

Famous for its stunning coastal landscapes, you can’t help but be captivated by the island’s sweeping beaches, sand dunes, and limestone cliffs. With every gust of wind, seashell particles and quartz sand form the coastline’s ever-changing fingerprint. 

This habitat has created the perfect home for stunning birdlife including wedge-tailed shearwaters, cormorants, terns, and impressive osprey. Along with the familiar king’s skink, these bird species are just as much part of the coastal landscape as the sand dunes.

Saucer-shaped sandy depressions, called blowouts, are a phenomenon you can see across the island, caused by years of wind erosion. A natural process, they’ve become more common as human activities increase.

Learn the Noongar names

Midi
Pied cormorant

Kaldjirkang
Crested tern

Yoondoordoo
Eastern osprey

Boodalang
Pelican

Coastal track at Salmon Bay
Coastal track at Salmon Bay

Maambakoort / Ocean 

The marine reserve is one of the most spectacular draw cards of the island. From sandy floors, seagrass meadows and coral reefs, to rocky shores, you’ll find a variety of fish species, often joined by green turtles and crustaceans like the prized western rock lobster. 

Towards the end of winter, you might spot humpback whales migrating through the waters, particularly at West End. All year round, you can spot long-nosed fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and Australian sea lions from the Cathedral Rocks viewing platform.

Thanks to the Leeuwin Current, you can also find tropical corals and fish species in this habitat. Originating around the Indonesian archipelago near the equator, this body of warm, tropical water flowing down the Western Australian coastline sustains tropical fish and coral larvae. In fact, over 135 species of tropical fish can be found in the waters of Wadjemup, compared to 11 species found off the mainland. There are about 25 kinds of hard coral to be spotted, but the pink pocillopora is the most abundant.

Marine Sanctuary Zones

In order to preserve Rottnest Island's unique marine environment, the island has five Marine Sanctuary Zones. Generally, these areas are 'no take' zones, but some exemptions apply.

The five Zones include:

  • Kingston Sanctuary Zone (Thomson Bay) to protect the four shipwrecks that lie within the area, including Gem, Janet, Denton Holme and Macedon, all wrecked in the late 1800s.
  • Parker Point Sanctuary Zone to protect the pocillopora coral reef.
  • Green Island Sanctuary Zone as it is an important habitat for male Australian sea lions.
  • Armstrong Bay Sanctuary Zone to protect the important seagrass meadows. 
  • West End Demersal Sanctuary Zone was established to protect bottom living species, such as the western rock lobster, and dhufish which are found in this area.
Learn more about marine sanctuary zones

Learn the Noongar names

Boya-k maambakoort-koop
Sea coral

Djildjit
Fish

Maran
Rock lobster

Maamoong
Whale

Settlement Areas

Although man-made, the settlement areas are not devoid of nature and wildlife. As you walk through Thomson Bay, you will likely observe quokkas, bobtail lizards, and silver gulls. These species flourish in their natural habitats further afield, but be sure to remember that they are wild animals. Be mindful not to feed or touch the wildlife, as it can harm their physical and behavioural development. 

Many introduced (non-native) plant species grow in the main settlement and along the roads and pathways. Some of these plants were brought to the island in the 19th century for gardens and orchards, and to create shade.

One of the biggest attractions on the island is the quokka population. It is common to see them in the settlement area of the island, but to truly experience them in their natural habitat, take a trip to the wider reserve. During August, joeys can be seen poking their heads out of their mothers' pouches; in September, they make their first steps into the island world. 

Remember, we are here to simply observe the quokkas (and all wildlife on Wadjemup) as they continue their natural movements around the island.

Learn the Noongar names

Kwoka
Quokka

Woondi
King's skink

Djeninkara
Silver gull

Boorn
Tree

Did you know?

During the late 19th century, attempts were made to improve the deteriorating native vegetation. Most failed and it was not until the early 20th century when the island was designated as a holiday resort that resources were allocated for this purpose.

In 1907, landscape gardener A. M. Cowan was granted generous funds to undertake large scale planting across the island. As was the practice of the day, a diversity of ornamental exotic plants were chosen. However the harsh conditions and lack of expertise lead to heavy losses. In 1908, with better techniques and consistent care, more plants survived. The Moreton Bay Fig trees (Ficus macrophylla) on the eastern side of Somerville Avenue were part of this program. This shady street is named after long-term Rottnest Island Board member, William Somerville who took a passionate interest in the island landscape from the 1930s.

Bird habitat on the salt lakes
Bird habitat on the salt lakes

Become a quokka conservation hero

You can show your support for Rottnest Island’s famous furry inhabitants by purchasing one of Rottnest Foundation’s adoption kits that fund conservation initiatives on the island.​

Your kit comes with a cuddly, life-sized soft quokka toy, tote bag, quokka fact sheet and an official adoption certificate. 

Learn more about the Adopt-a-Quokka Kits

Protect Our Local Wildlife

Respect the flora and fauna

Rottnest Island is a Class A Reserve, meaning that all the plants and animals are protected.  

When you experience the island by foot, bike or bus there are ways you can respect the land and its unique natural environment. Please don’t touch or feed the wildlife, leave the island’s flora where you found it, and contact the rangers prior to arrival should you need to bring a guide, assistance, or companion animal for medical reasons. 

Do not feed the wildlife

It is important to let all animals on the island forage for their own food and water. Feeding wildlife can cause illness and lead to aggressive behaviour, and it’s important they don’t learn to rely on humans. 

Do not touch the wildlife

For their safety and yours, don’t touch any of the animals on the island. While quokkas are certainly curious, touching and petting them is not permitted. Touching quokkas (or any animal) can make them sick, spread disease, and even cause mothers to abandon their young if they carry an unfamiliar scent. 

If you accidentally come into contact with an animal, wash the area of contact with soap and water as soon as possible to minimise the risk of infection.

Dispose of your rubbish

Putting your rubbish and food scraps in the bin is important to keep the island beautiful and the wildlife safe. Island animals can become aggressive or sick from eating human food or ingesting plastics and other harmful materials.

Ride your bikes with care

To avoid accidents with quokkas, and other wildlife such as lizards, please take care while riding and keep your eyes on the road. Stick to the paths and roads to protect the native flora and fauna. If you see a sick or injured animal or animals being mistreated, please report it immediately to the Rottnest Island rangers on (+61 8) 9372 9788.

A note from Rottnest Island Authority

Remember, anyone who deliberately interferes with (including feeding) wildlife on Rottnest Island will be fined on the spot under the Rottnest Island Island Regulations 1988 and potentially prosecuted under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 with fines up to $10,000. Acts of animal cruelty may result in fines up to $50,000 and 5 years imprisonment under the Animal Welfare Act 2002