Furry selfie-stars help put Western Australian island on map

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-09 11:22:33|Editor: Liangyu
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SYDNEY, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Hollywood star Bill Murray has become the latest in a long line of celebrities visiting Western Australia's Rottnest Island recently to capture a selfie with the current famous locals -- quokkas.

The star of films such as Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters, posed with one of the small, brown marsupials on Wednesday during a trip.

Other celebrities already involved in the quokka selfie craze include tennis champion Roger Federer and Hollywood A-lister Margot Robbie, who between them have totalled millions of likes and shares on their photos.

Known online as "the happiest animal in the world," quokkas became famous due to their smiley looking faces which makes them ideal selfie companions -- they subsequently took the internet by storm, and made their home, Rottnest Island, an international tourist destination.

Rottnest Island Executive Director Michelle Reynolds told Xinhua on Friday that the past few years have seen record numbers of visitors both international and interstate.

"I don't know if we can say absolutely that increase is because of quokkas, but we're very pleased to see that our quokkas are getting attention," Reynolds said.

"And most importantly that attention is part of an education campaign about the quokkas."

While there are small numbers of the species elsewhere in the state, the island's lack of predators has led to a population of 10,000 individuals, and being just 25 minutes boat ride from the state capital of Perth makes Rottnest a viable side trip for many travellers.

Historically, Australia's Western state has struggled to attract as many international tourists as the eastern side of the country, with Sydney and Melbourne often proving an irresistible draw, boasting culture as well as iconic monuments like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

However the adorable quokkas are putting all that to shame, and consequently visitors' eyes are being opened to the idyllic environment they inhabit, and the rare natural beauty of the West Coast in general.

"I think people are hearing about the quokka, they're seeing all these celebrities who are taking time out of busy schedules to make the effort to introduce themselves to a quokka, and they're choosing to make the trip," Reynolds.

"And then when they get here they realize that this is an amazing state park that we have -- we've got nature, beaches, sunshine, pristine waters, and then the bonus of a quokka."

A large proportion of those visiting Rottnest from overseas are from China, which Reynolds said has come as a surprise and a delight.

"We've been really surprised about the number of Chinese people who have been coming to visit us. They're so enthusiastic, up for a great time and an adventure."

"And also really respectful of the quokkas and our environment, so we're really grateful to have such great visitors."