Continued from Further Dodo History.
Final Records and Extinction
of the Dodo
An escaped slave called Simon claimed that he had
still seen a dodo in 1674 but the final piece of proof of the existence
of the Dodo is contained in a journal written by an Englishman called Benjamin
Harry, who was the Chief Mate of a ship called the Berkley Castle which
moored at Mauritius. This indicates that the Dodo survived until
1681. In an entry dated 3rd July 1681, Harry writes that "of winged
and feathered ffowle, the less passant are Dodos whose fflesh is very hard".
This journal, the full title of which is "1679-82: journal of voyage
to Bengal and back, kept by Benjamin Harry, chief mate", is now (as
at 2006) in the safekeeping of the British Museum (Record Reference Sloane
MS 3668 ff89-111b).
It is thought that the Dodo
finally became extinct between 1681 and 1690. The French Hugenoot
François Leguat, spent several months searching for Dodos in 1693
on Mauritius, but was unable to find any, so we can assume that they had
become extinct by then.
Scientists David Roberts
and Andrew Solow wrote in 2003, in the publication Nature that they
had developed a statistical method calculating how long a species probably
survived after last being sighted by human eyes. They used the ten last
"reliable" sightings of the dodo, only including a 1662 report by a Dutch
sailor called Volquard Iverson who was stranded on mauritius in that year
as the last "reliable" sighting, and reached the conclusion that the Dodo
probably died out 28 years later, around 1690.
The main reason for the extermination
of the species might have been the introduction of rats as well as domestic
animals. Above-all, pigs which became wild again, and destroyed the clutches
of eggs of the soil-breeding bird, and also monkeys would have been potential
threats. Since the Dodo originally possessed no natural enemies,
it had no escape or defense behavior. It does not seem to have had
any particular fear of human beings, which would have made the hunting
of Dodos particularly easy, thus wiping them out even quicker than if they
had a strong inbuilt fear of man. The appearance of new diseases
and the destruction of forests, on which the dodo depended to a great extent,
would also have been probable causes for the Dodo's extinction.
Further discussion about
the extinction of this gigantic Pigeon is included under the pages relating
to EXTERMINATION, and it should be kept in mind that the Dodo is just one
of many species which has sadly disappeared in relatively recent history.
Two closely related birds who lived on the nearby islands of Reunion and
Rodriguez (SOLITAIRE) have ceased to exist in similar ways.
The Dodo in Literature and Modern
The Dodo has appeared in diverse literary works, as
it is the case of “Alicie in Wonderland”, by Lewis Caroll. It appears in
chapter 3 of this book, in where dodo organizes an absurd race in which
it decides that all have won and therefore, all must receive a prize.
Porky in Wackyland is a cartoon film from 1934,
in which the Dodo is a main personage. The plot of the film begins when
Porky Pig is asked to captures the last Dodo, which is in a called country
Wackyland, in which the most absurd things turn happend from the most usual.
In the film Ice Age, a group of Dodos appear, preparing
themselves for the oncoming cold. They aim to survive with only three
A Dodo and a Sambur Deer and featured supporting
the Mauritius coat of arms. The Dodo is also the logo for Gerald
Durrell's Wildlife Conservation Trust at Jersey Zoo.
In Japanese the Dodo is sometimes called “the foolish
pigeon" (gukiyuu). In English the expression "dead as a Dodo“ is
used to describe something that has irreparably passed, broken or died.
And finally, the Dodo is an everlasting symbol
of the destructive power that humanity has over nature, and its ability
to completely wipe out an entire species. But in a strange way, it
may represent hope that mankind may see the error of its ways and may,
hopefully, become kinder and more aware of the effects that humans can
make to this fragile world.