quokka
French tourists were fined £2,080 each (A$4,000, $3,130) for setting fire to a quokkaWikimedia

Two French tourists have been fined after filming themselves setting fire to a quokka in Western Australia.

The marsupial, which is about the size of a cat and is an endangered species on Rottnest Island, escaped.

Thibaud Valette, 24, and Jean Batrikian, 18, admitted to animal cruelty after they ignited an aerosol can which produced a 10-inch flame and singed the quokka's head and body.

The backpackers, however, had to spend a night in jail after failing to pay the entire fine. They were fined £2,080 each (A$4,000, $3,130).

The court was told by the pair's defence that they did not intend to harm the animal, a claim which was dismissed by Fremantle magistrate Elizabeth Langdon as "fanciful".

According to Fairfax Media, the pair were on a working holiday and staying on Rottnest Island where quokkas are found.

In the 1990s the Australian authorities set a maximum $10,000 (£6,670) fine as part of a crackdown on anyone caught harming quokkas.

In February this year, five quokkas were found dead on Rottnest.