The dodo bird inhabited the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where it lived undisturbed for so long that it lost its need and ability to fly. It lived and nested on the ground and ate fruits that had fallen from trees. There were no mammals on the island and a high diversity of bird species lived in the dense forests.
In 1505, the Portuguese first set foot on Mauritius as their ships slipped into the island’s harbour. The island quickly became a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade. Weighing up to 50 pounds, the dodo bird was a welcome source of fresh meat for the sailors. Large numbers of dodo birds were killed for food.
Later, when the Dutch used the island as a penal colony, pigs and monkeys were brought to the island along with the convicts. Also uninvited rats from the ships made their way onto the island. The Pigs, Monkeys and Rats made short work of vulnerable dodo bird eggs in the ground nests.
Before humans arrived the Dodo birds had nothing to fear on the island and many say that is the reason they were so easy to kill as they never knew fear.
The combination of human exploitation and introduced species significantly reduced dodo bird populations. Within 100 years of the arrival of humans on Mauritius, the once abundant dodo bird was a rare bird.
The last dodo bird was killed in 1681.
So can the Portuguese be blamed for their demise? If they never set foot on the island would there still be Dodo birds alive today? Let us know in the comments section below.
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