In the year 1598 AD, Portuguese sailors landing on the shores of the island of Mauritius discovered a previously unknown species of bird, the Dodo. Having been isolated by its island location from contact with humanity, the Dodo greeted the new visitors with a child-like innocence. The sailors mistook the gentle spirit of the dodo, and its lack of fear of the new predators, as stupidity. They dubbed the bird "dodo" (meaning something similar to a simpleton in the Portuguese tongue). Many Dodos were killed by the human visitors, and those that survived man had to face the introduced animals. Dogs and pigs soon became feral when introduced to the Mauritian eco-system. By the year 1681, the last dodo had died, and the world was left worse with its passing.
The origin of the name DODO is not known for sure. It was designated under various appellations, and it is no easy
matter to determine with precision their etymology, nor the time when they were first given. Walgvogel, Dodaer, Doder, Dodo, Dronte (Didus Ineptus)
and Dodaersen are the names it simultaneously received. Sir Thomas Herbert, an English gentleman who landed on Mauritius on 10 June 1628, was the
first to call me it " DODO ". And it is a fallacy to believe that the word is derived from the Portuguese Doudo, which means stupid. This
is simply aÂ fallacy! Â
The Dodo was a wonderful creature - the king of birds! Each type of animal possesses its own structure, even in the
most exceptional and apparently extravagant forms, which corresponds to the conditions and necessities of the environment in which it was destined
to live. The Dodo has its reasons for being as it is. It evidently did not require more for the circumstances in which it was called upon to live.
Besides, contrarily to society which condones and rewards conformity, Dodos are true individuals. Like human beings, Dodos all looked, act, feel
and are different. They should be admired for their uniqueness.
The Dodo was a little larger than a swan or a full-grown turkey weighing 50 pounds (25 kilos) at least. Its body was
heavily built with a big stomach and a rounded hind part. Its legs were short, thick and stumpy, its eyes were small and sharp, its plumage was
bluish-gray, its head was free of facial feathers, its wings and its tail were very small and its beak was stout, long, bent, of a pale
greenish-yellow and of such a powerful structure that the Dodo can easily grind the seeds of wild trees and snatch off the extremely tough pericarp
of the Pandanus (Vacoas), its usual food. It also used its beak as a defensive weapon, in case of need. Its cry is similar to that of a goose. The
presence of a pebble, more or less the size of a chicken's egg, in its stomach, leads one to believe that similarly to the ostrich and Molucca
pigeon, it used such stones to triturate the more or less touch food it ate.
Contrarily to the belief by many that the Dodo is a mythical
and fantastic product of imagination, it has been factually established that it did exist in Mauritius. Complete skeletons of the Dodo have been
reconstituted by means of fossil bones brought to light by excavations. The question about its existence was finally settled over 100 years ago.
Not only had the Dodo existed, but it had existed on Mauritius exclusively.
In fact, since the beginning of time, there had been as many Dodos as there are Stars in the sky! So, when you look up
at the heavens on a clear night, think of each little star as a Dodo. Their beauty and mystery will stretch your imagination to the far end of this
world and beyond. The female and the male companion are very serious about their relationship. They stayed together most of the time. The female
lays one egg at a time. It was white and a bit larger than that of a goose. It laid it on a heap of dry grass or palm trees - usually in a clean
place - which they arranged together in the shape of a nest. Both of them incubate the egg alternately during seven weeks, after which it hatched.
During this entire period, and afterwards, while the baby-Dodo is in its infancy, the female and the male companion protected it by chasing off any
animal coming within a 200 meter radius of our nest. The male usually chased off the males and the female chased off the females. Even when their
little Dodo was able to look after itself, the female companion and the male remained together.
Another peculiarity of the Dodo is that once the nest was ready for the female companion to lay her egg, the male looked
for a white pebble of the size of a hen's egg and which it carefully placed near the nest. What is the reason of this peculiarity? Humans are not
sure. With its strong and powerful beak, it could easily grind the seeds of wild trees and snatch off the extremely tough pericarp of the Pandanus
(Vacoas) which is the food I prefer.
After Mr. Cauche saw the Dodo on Mauritius in 1636, my kind and I were chased, attacked and destroyed
very rapidly. It is undeniable that the Dodo was destroyed by the Dutch sometime during their occupation from 1598 to 1710. It is believed that the
Dodo went in "permanent hiding" sometime in the 1680's. Baron Grant, who sejourned on Mauritius from 1740 to 1760, is positive that the
Dodo had already disappeared at this time. Yet, Governor Hubert Hugo alone, in 1674 wrote that a maroon slave who had been at large for eleven
years and was then captured, asserted that only twice had he noticed some of the Dodos in very secluded places.
One should remember that the Dodo only laid one egg at a time and he was defenseless in front of the humans and
other predators. In fact after having lived so many years of peace on Mauritius, Dodos were innocent of fear or defense from any spoiler. They
looked upon the new invaders of our paradise in simple curiosity and they were tame to the extreme. It is unfortunate that man - robbers, vermins,
imposters, destructors, poachers, pirates, cheats, egoists and uneducated babares beat us down with sticks and stones to kill us and eat us in
spite of our meat not being very tasty. And to complete the havoc, animals - pigs, monkeys and dogs - which the Portuguese and Dutch sailors were
in the habit of importing and setting at liberty on Mauritius, must have made great destruction of the Dodo's eggs and young, to say nothing of the
full-grown birds, whenever hunger pressed them. In addition, the rats which escaped from the ships must have contributed to the ruthless
destruction of the once happy bird.