The Real Story of The Dodo

The island nation of Mauritius has which extinct animal as its national symbol?

And the answer: the dodo.

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Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, about 2,000 km off the coast of Africa. Dodo birds were prevalent on the island and had no natural enemy, until European explorers arrived with stowaway cats and rats, who became the dodo's predators.

Beyond its national symbol, the dodo has become the face of Mauritius. Its jolly image and name cover pizza parlors, coffee shops, beach towels, backpacks, and every other kitschy souvenir in between. But beyond its human-led extinction or its tourist appeal, the dodo represents somewhat of a national identity for the island of Mauritius, one that speaks to its colonial past.

Before humans, the dodo had no known predators. It was naive, yes, but rightly so. Without any exposure to real threat, they were unacquainted with its actuality, and when the colonizers arrived on the island it didn't take long until the population was decimated. Aside from direct human villainy to the species, it was the second-hand human neglect that destroyed the dodo. Against predators like mice and rats, they stood no chance.

Eventually, the loss of the dodo was actualized and publicized. Surely it was not the first extinction caused by human unawareness, but it was the first to enter popular consciousness, and the reaction was of shame. Individuals began to realize that extinction can be, and too easily is, of human making. The dodo has since become a beacon of conservation. Ecologists on and off the island of Mauritius use its image as a reminder of how carelessness can create devastation for unassuming populations like its own. While it is now long extinct, the dodo is far from forgotten.

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