Eulogy to the Dodo

Eulogy to the Dodo

Dodo, we will never forget you. You have had the honour, or the misfortune, of becoming one of the most famous extinct animals. You have become an icon. The ultimate symbol of things which are over and done with.

But we mis-remember you, and I want to see your image rehabilitated.

You were a huge island bird, related to doves: perhaps you coo-ed, or doo-ed, and that is where your name came from. You wings were tiny: you lived on the ground.  Your stout legs were yellow, and you had a plume on your tail. You had no need of flight, because for thousands of years you had no predators on Mauritius, where you lived. You learned to fatten yourself on ripe fruit at the end of the wet season in order to live through the dry season each year. The drawings that we see of you now show overfed captive Dodos, so for centuries people have assumed that you were fat and clumsy – stupid, ridiculous in your inability to fly. They called you Didus Ineptus.

It was unfortunate that you were fearless of humans. When Portuguese travellers arrived around 1600, they didn’t like the taste of your flesh, but they brought with them plenty of other animals that did. Their dogs, cats, pigs, rats and monkeys easily plundered your nests, while the humans destroyed your forests.

A hundred years after your extinction, people had started to assume that you were a myth. You were too strange to have really existed. But Lewis Carroll wrote you into Alice In Wonderland and your place in history was guaranteed.

Sorry Dodo for ridiculing you.

Sorry for destroying your home.

Sorry for calling you Inept, and for blaming you for your own extinction.

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Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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