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The Dodos
 
The most famous of the recently extinct birds is of course the Dodo one of 3 fairly similar large flightless birds living on the Mascarene Islands off the coast of Madagascar which became extinct as a result of hunting and the depredations of rats, cats, pigs and macaques, all of which were introduced by early travellers. The three birds were, the Dodo from Mauritius, the Solitaire of Reunion and the Solitaire of Rodriguez

The Dodo, Raphus cucullatus was extinct by 1680 only 174 years after Europeans first became aware of it. No whole birds are known but a selection of bones including a whole head and a foot are in various museums around Europe. The bill was 22-25 cm long and it is believed the bird may have weighed as much as 50 lbs. There are several descriptions and drawings which indicate a greyish bird with a lighter breast. Feet and legs yellow. The plumage may of course have changed seasonally as do many birds.

Reunion Solitaire or White Dodo (Raphus solitarius) is known only from paintings and descriptions. Like the Rodriguez Solitaire the exact date it became extinct is not known. Bary de Saint Vincent visited the Island in 1801 and reported that no members of the species had been seen for some time.

These 3 islands between them were home to many more birds than these, most of them endemic and completely unique. Of the 28 fairly certain species of birds found on these islands, 27 were found nowhere else in the world, and of these 24 or 25 are now extinct. This is a terrible testament to the destruction human beings can unleash, even without modern weapons of mass destruction. It is pointless however to be bitter, or to hate those responsible, we all make errors in our ignorance. Like children learning as we grow, we can let this tragic history be a strong lesson on how precious the diversity of life on this planet is. As well as one on how important it is to seek a growing awareness of the effects our actions have on the world around us, both as individuals and as a species.

Most information on this page was contributed by EarthLife. 

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Last updated: 01 January 2003