Bookplate illustration (and detail) from Neue Seite 1.
1. Dronte (Raphus cucullatus),[ausgestorben]
Bei Oken: Walgvogel (Didus ineptus)
2. Kiwi (Apteryx australis)
Bei Oken: Kiwi (Aptery australis)
3. Großtrappe (Otis tarda)
Bei Oken: Trappe (Otis tarda)
4. Helmkasuar (Casuarius casuarius)
Bei Oken: Casuar (Casuarius indicus)
5. Strauß (Struthio camelus)
Bei Oken: Strauß (Struthio camelus)
The Way of the Dodo is a 2003 log from PBS‘ program “The Voyage of the Odyssey” written by environmental educator Sara Earhart. The page contains some images, the audio and the log transcript. It starts with:
The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is arguably the most common icon associated with the island nation of Mauritius. Although it was only about 300 years ago that the dodo became extinct, very little is known about this bird. Ironically, even though the dodo lived into the time of written history, more is known about the natural history and behaviour of some dinosaurs than is known about the dodo. Its appearance, life history, and the history of its extinction all remain a mystery. The written reports and illustrations of sailors and ship’s naturalists who visited Mauritius in the 17th century are the basis of all known information. Primary sources, such as these, should not be accepted without question as they are subject to inconsistencies, elaborations, and artistic interpretation-thus the difficulty in creating a true picture of this unique relative of the pigeon.
Ok, nothing new until now. The log goes with the description of their history, habitat, the Dutch, their description and there it goes. It’s interesting, but we all know this story – if you don’t know visit the archives of this blog! To conclude the log:
Over a period of 40-50 years, human influences exerted more and more pressure on the dodo population. The last known written encounter with a dodo was recorded in 1662 by Volquard Iverson, a Dutch sailor stranded on Mauritius. He and his fellow castaways searched the island high and low for food and only encountered a small group of dodos on a coastal islet just off shore. Unfortunately, this was also the last known record of the dodo.
The dodo is the most famous animal extinction in human history. With its death came the realization that humans have the ability to extinguish an entire species. Ironically, once the dodo was declared “extinct” there was a surge in dodo research lasting more than 150 years. Today the dodo lives on in Mauritius only as a national symbol and as an image on textiles, woodcarvings, and souvenirs in local markets and shops. However, it is always present in one’s imagination to remind us that resources are not infinite and that humans must protect the world’s species, lest they too go “the way of the dodo.”
One more nice page about dodos: Description of the Dodo bird (raphus cucullatus) from the Birds of Mauritius site. The page starts with the dodo “portrait” above and the Old Print of a Dodo:
The dodo was a flightless bird native only to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The dodo was a flightless member of the pigeon family. Fully grown dodos weighted about 23 kg (50 pounds). Around 1505 the Portuguese became the first Europeans to discover the dodo. By 1681 it had been driven to extinction by humans and the feral dogs, pigs, rats, and monkeys introduced by Europeans to Mauritius.
It talks a bit more about its history, the physical characteristics, natural history, including food habits, reproduction, habitat and behavior; and about the economic importance for humans, including the positive point and conservation, which means extinction. The “positive” description says:
The main purpose dodos served to humans, in the brief contact between the two species, was as food. The sailors frequently fed on wildlife from Mauritius while staying there, although it has been said that dodo meat was not particularly tasty. Still, they were hunted intensely, with sailors sometimes bringing back as many as 50 at a time. What they couldn’t eat right away they would salt and bring back with them. A few attempts were made to bring back a dodo alive. When this was successful, entrepreneurs would capitalize on the unique looks of the bird and tour the dodos around Europe, displaying them in cages and demonstrating how the dodo could “eat” stones. (Strickland and Melville, 1848) (Fuller, 1987)
I don’t want to copy all the text from the page, because it’s a good reference and I want people to visit it. The page also includes links to more dodo sites, scientific information, bibliography, and links to articles, included in the site. Almost all the articles were already blogged about here. I would like also to suggest their Images of the Dodo page.
Update: I removed all the links, since the whole site is gone and the links were broken.
The attached illustration is taken from this publication. The Dutch noticed on the island, apart from the great variety of birds and tortoises, a very peculiar creature – a huge bird, one and half times bigger than a swan (some descriptions say twice as big), that could not fly as instead of wings it had only three symbolic feathers, similar to the quill that were used for writing at that time. The round body was decorated with a few curly feathers that suggested the signs of a tail. They had massive legs, as all flightless birds and a large head that looked as if it was covered with a cap. Hunting them was easy, and this is probably where their Portuguese name originated – dodo – idiot. The Dutch ethymology of dodo relates to their heaviness – it means ‘fat bottom’.
At the time sea voyages would bring back more interesting memoirs of the foreign countries and islands, and so a couple of live dodo were brought back to Europe. Unfortunately, not long after, they all died and all that is left of them are random bones and incomplete skeletons in various museums. Painters became interested in the strange bird, and there are some quite intricate drawings and paintings depicting the dodo. Roeland Savery, in his oil painting (1626) depicting the inhabitants of paradise, did not hesitate to include this strange bird.
As the sea voyagers were always partial to meat, many birds ended up in the pot. The opinions of the meat varied greatly – some loved it, while others loathed it. It why the Dutch called dodo a wallowbirdes, which means abominable bird. It had the strange property that the longer you boiled it, the tougher it got. […]
The sailors who landed on Mauritius found much amusement in watching the clumsy dodo’s behavior. There is a story one told of watching a dodo attempt to escape in a hurry. When it tried to run away, (wobble may be a more accurate term), its belly would drag on the ground and slow him down. But for the most part, the dodo is described as a lazy, rather dumb animal. It had virtually no defenses against predators, except for its large beak which could deliever a “fearsome bite” if the occasion arose, such as a threat to itself or its young. (Fuller, 1987; Strickland and Melville, 1848)
Old news (December 2005″) from BBC News: Scientists find ‘mass dodo grave’: Scientists have discovered the “beautifully preserved” bones of about 20 dodos at a dig site in Mauritius.
A team of Dutch and Mauritian scientists discovered the bones in a swampy area near a sugar plantation on the south-east of the island.
The bones were said to have been recovered from a single layer of earth, with the prospect of further excavations to come.