For those traveling on the Island right now or are planning your journey, you might notice this strange bird with a long beak and quite a few stores bearing the name Dodo. Don’t be puzzled, infact it is an important part of the Mauritian History you ought to know about!
The dodo is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Mauritius. It’s closest genetic relative was the also extinct Rodrigues solitaire, the two forming the subfamily Raphinae of the family of pigeons and doves. The closest living relative of the dodo is the Nicobar pigeon. The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598. In the following years, the bird was hunted by sailors and invasive species, while its habitat was being destroyed. The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662. Some even considered it to be a mythical creature!
You might wonder why in the world would you call a bird by the name ‘Dodo’? Well, It wasn’t a foolish bird! The etymology of the word dodo is unclear. Some ascribe it to the Dutch word ‘dodoor’ for “sluggard”, but it is more probably related to Dodaars, which means either “fat-arse” or “knot-arse”, referring to the knot of feathers on the hind end. The English writer Sir Thomas Herbert was the first to use the word dodo in print in his 1634 travelogue, claiming it was referred to as such by the Portuguese, who had visited Mauritius in 1507. Nevertheless, some sources still state that it is derived from the Portuguese word doudo (currently doido), meaning “fool” or “crazy”. It has also been suggested that dodo was an onomatopoeic approximation of the bird’s call, a two-note pigeon-like sound resembling “doo-doo” – Now that should make sense!
The dodo’s appearance in life is evidenced only by drawings, paintings, and written accounts from the 17th century. The extinction of the dodo within less than a century of its discovery called attention to the previously unrecognized problem of human involvement in the disappearance of entire species. And even so, The dodo achieved widespread recognition from its role in the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it has since become a fixture in popular culture, often as a symbol of extinction and obsolescence.
The death of Dodo is in fact a lesson in extinction to humanity. So much so, that the English expression ‘As dead as the Dodo’ had to be coined!
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