What really happened to the Dodo?


The Dodo bird was first mentioned by a group of Dutch sailors in the year 1598, where they are described as ‘foules twice as bigge as swans.’ Discovered on the island of Mauritius, the isolated bird had no predators and so no reason to fear humans. These one meter (3.3 feet) high birds caught the attention of sailors and as the men approached the birds ‘stared at us and remained quiet where they stand, not knowing whether they had wings to fly away or legs to run off.’ Indeed, the trusting, flightless birds were easy prey for the hungry sailors who had been out at sea for a long time, and as they were so large they provided enough meat for more than one meal.

Although hunting by sailors certainly didn’t help the Dodo population, it was the introduction of other animals such as cats, pigs and dogs which were more detrimental to the Dodo’s wellbeing, as they would plunder Dodo nests and provide new competition for the limited food available; not to forget the destruction of their natural habitat by humans. Whether their rapid extinction is linked to hunting, deforestation or new predators, it is clear that the discovery by humans doomed the Dodo bird. The last recorded Dodo sighting was in 1662, less than one hundred years after the first.

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