Is Instagram about to ban one of Australia's most popular selfies?

They're cute, friendly, and international stars from the worlds of sport and entertainment have posed with them.

But click on the hashtag #quokkaselfie on Instagram and you'll be warned you are looking for images that “encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment”.

The quokka, the tiny marsupial native to a handful of islands off Western Australia - including WA Tourism jewel in the crown Rottnest Island - is the latest species to be added to Instagram's animal cruelty alert system.

The system was originally set up to draw attention to the poor conditions that some animals used as tourist attractions are kept in and to alert social media users to the illegal wildlife trade.

The quokka is the latest animal to prompt a cruelty warning on Instagram. Source: File/AAP
The quokka is the latest animal to prompt a cruelty warning on Instagram. Source: File/AAP

It's something of a blow for WA Tourism, as the likes of Roger Federer, Margot Robbie and Teri Hatcher have already posed for pictures using the #quokkaselfie hashtag, bringing invaluable publicity to the island.

When users search for the hashtag, a warning pops up that reads: "Protect wildlife on Instagram: You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment."

Hashtag #quokkaselfie prompts this alert. Source: Instagram
Hashtag #quokkaselfie prompts this alert. Source: Instagram

A spokesperson for the Rottnest Island Authority told The West Australian that the warning was "unhelpful".

“The Instagram block notice ... does not serve to educate or inform the public about our conservation efforts or direct people to how they might develop a better understanding of this native species,” he said.

“The RIA takes seriously its responsibility to protect the quokka population on the island and there are significant penalties for people who interfere with native flora and fauna.”

Roger Federer's quokka selfie was a major tourism coup for WA. Source: Instagram/Roger Federer
Roger Federer's quokka selfie was a major tourism coup for WA. Source: Instagram/Roger Federer

Currently, more than 20,000 Instagram posts have been hashtagged with #quokkaselfie, proving the popularity of posing with the marsupial.

Tennis star Roger Federer's quokka selfie garnered almost half a million likes, while Margot Robbie's recent selfie has attracted a whopping 1.5 million likes.

Margot Robbie's quokka selfie has 1.5 million likes. Source: Instagram/Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie's quokka selfie has 1.5 million likes. Source: Instagram/Margot Robbie

WA Tourism is endeavouring to lure actor Chris Hemsworth to Rottnest Island for his own #quokkaselfie.

According to The West Australian, the Rottnest Island Authority acting executive director Michelle Reynolds has contacted Instagram with a request to remove the warning.

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