Everyone should learn about the Dodo bird because “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it” – George Santayana. The story of the Dodo bird is a textbook example of extinction by humanity’s reckless ambitions going unchecked by any sustainability efforts. Mauritius, an island off of Southern Africa in the Indian Ocean is where the Dodo bird used to call home. There are currently no living Dodo birds anywhere in the world.
In 1598 the Portuguese landed on Mauritius, an island previously untouched by humanity where the Dodo bird was at the top of the food chain. Without any natural predators and an abundance of food the Dodo bird did not need to fly and evolved to lose its flying ability. Weighing in at 50 pounds, eating fruit that fell from trees and nesting on the ground, the Dodo bird had a “niche” lifestyle unsuitable for anywhere else in the world. By 1662, less than 100 years later, the Dodo birds existence on this planet ceased.
The Dodo bird got its name for its apparent stupidity to Portuguese settlers. It’s massive size and easy hunting made the Dodo a meal of choice for sailors who would pass through the area in years to come. Over hunting is one major reason the Dodo went extinct.
Prior human settlement there were no mammals on Mauritius to threaten the Dodo’s existence. When the Portuguese set up shop they brought with them all sorts of animals including pigs, monkeys, and probably un-intentionally, rats. All of these invasive species added to the Dodo’s demise as their nest were very vulnerable to pillaging. Inter-species “survival of the fittest” proved the Dodo bird to be weak contestant against the new alien-species immigration boom on Mauritius.
Another reason the Dodo bird died out is because of habitat destruction, another inevitable consequence of colonization. As the island of Mauritius was conquered, the natural resource of timber was being depleted exponentially. One driving force of the deforestation is when the Dutch used Mauritius as a prison for their convicts.
Today Mauritius is a democratic nation with a thriving economy and is a popular tourist destination. As for the Dodo, they’re dead, the last confirmed sighting was in 1662 by Volkert Evertsz.
According to National Geographic, the Dodo bird is a long lost descendant of the pigeon and dove. How the Dodo got separated from its cousins 25 million years ago, and got to the solitary island of Mauritius is still a mystery. The Dodo was well equipped for living on Mauritius but as history shows, it did not adapt well to the introduction of other species, mainly humans.
The Calvaria tree is native to Mauritius, and evidence shows that its livelihood was directly related to the Dodo bird’s existence. When the Dodo bird died out so did the tree, the seeds from the Calvaria tree needed to be germinated in the birds system and distributed in its droppings. Today the Calvaria tree is still thriving thanks to the introduction of turkeys to the island who’s bladders serve the same purpose for the seeds as the Dodo birds did. This is an example of how an entire ecosystem can be affected by the removal, or introduction of a species.
What Makes It Green:
History can be “green” too. By being educated on what went wrong in the past, we can try to avoid the same mistakes in the future so that our children do not have to imagine certain species, but can still see them for themselves. The Dodo may not have been the sharpest species in the shed, but I still would have enjoyed seeing one.