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As dumb as…

K.R. VISALAKSHI
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Have you heard of the dodo? It went extinct in the 17th century, and one of the main reasons for this is human interference.

Creating awareness:The dodo is the quintessential symbol of biodiversity loss.Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
Creating awareness:The dodo is the quintessential symbol of biodiversity loss.Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

The dodo was a flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Closely related to pigeons and doves, it was three feet tall and weighed about 20 kilograms. It lived on fruits and nested on the ground.

The dodo has been extinct since the 17{+t}{+h}century. The verb phrase “to go the way of the dodo” means to become extinct or obsolete, to fall out of common usage or practice, or to become a thing of the past.

How did it happen?

The dodo was not only dumb but also daring. It was entirely fearless of man. This, in addition to its inability to fly, made it easy prey. According to reports dodo ment did not taste good and was tough to eat. Apparently, the bird was killed for its feathers which were used to make head dressings used in religious ceremonies.

When humans first arrived on Mauritius, they also brought with them other animals, like dogs, pigs, cats and rats that had not inhabited the island before. The crab-eating Macaques plundered the dodo nests, while humans destroyed the forests where the birds made their homes. The damage caused by the pigs and macaques on the dodo population were considered to have been more severe than that of hunting.

The extinction of the dodo was not noticed immediately. It was in the 19th century that research was conducted on a small quantity of remains of four specimens collected from Mauritius. With the dodo being extinct just about a century after it had been discovered brought into sharp focus the problem of human involvement in the disappearance of this species.

If you have read Alice in Wonderland you would be familiar with the dodo. Since its appearance in the book it has become a symbol of extinction and is often used as a mascot for Mauritius.


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