“Unbeknownst to most ornithologists, the dodo was actually a very advanced species, living alone quite peacefully until the 17th century. It was annihilated by men, rats, and dogs. As usual.” This is a caption from a Gary Larson cartoon (my favourite cartoonist ever) that depicts dodo birds sitting on a sandy palm beach reading books, playing chess, and working out a calculus equation as savage mammals arrive on the Island. Unfortunately, the cartoon is fairly accurate.
The dodo was an endemic species of Mauritius and became extinct within 100 years after the settlement of the island by humans. The dodo has become a sad mascot for human ignorance and our ability to drive an entire species into obsolescence.
Before the arrival of human colonists, sugar cane farmers, and golfers to Mauritius, no mammals inhabited the island. Along with the dodo, other endemic plants and animals have disappeared and the island’s ecosystem has been badly damaged with little hope of ever being repaired.
Conservation activities on Mauritius began in the 1980’s and are having some success in preserving forested areas in the Black River Gorges National Park in the south west, the Bamboo Mountain Range in the south east and the Moka-Port Louis Ranges in the north west as well as some isolated mountains like the Le Morne Brabant pictured here. Much of the flora and fauna here is unfamiliar to me, so identifying things as uniquely Mauritian won’t be easy. So far, I believe I have spotted a few rare birds: the pink pigeon, the Mauritius bulbul, and the Mauritius fody.