The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is a bird that lived only on the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Its closest genetic relative was the Rodrigues solitaire, now also extinct, the two forming the subfamily Raphinae of the family of doves.
Mauritius was discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1505 , but it was the Dutch who established permanent habitation on the island.
The dodo had no fear of people and was easy prey because it could not fly. It lived on fruits and nuts, and built nests on the ground.
The name Dodo, is from an old Portugese word, doudo, which means “slow down”.
The first settlers brought animals with them not native to Mauritius.
There were, for example, pigs, monkeys, and rats who plundered the birds’ nests, while men felled the forests where the birds lived.
The last widely accepted record of a dodo sighting is the 1662 report by shipwrecked mariner Volkert Evertsz of the Dutch ship Arnhem.
“These animals on our coming up to them stared at us and remained quiet where they stand, not knowing whether they had wings to fly away or legs to run off, and suffering us to approach them as close as we pleased. Amongst these birds were those which in India they call Dod-aersen (being a kind of very big goose); these birds are unable to fly, and instead of wings, they merely have a few small pins, yet they can run very swiftly. We drove them together into one place in such a manner that we could catch them with our hands, and when we held one of them by its leg, and that upon this it made a great noise, the others all on a sudden came running as fast as they could to its assistance, and by which they were caught and made prisoners also.”
The last known dodo was killed less than 100 years after the species had been found.
Its extinction was not immediately noticed, and some considered it to be a mythical creature.