Paying The Price!
Volkert Evertsz, the Dutch sailor, could not believe his own eyes… he wondered whether mirages would be seen at the sea! No one could blame his sense of sight either, as Evertsz and other sailors of the Dutch ship ‘Arnhem‘, which had got wrecked on February 12, 1662 off Mauritius on the Saint Brandon Rocks, were without food for nine consecutive days! They, even, had to resort to drinking their own urine in order to quench their thirst! It was, hence, making such mistakes was quite natural for them.
Evertsz and his friends were slowly getting prepared for accepting their death on the Saint Brandon Rocks (also known Cargados Carajos), a group of atolls and reefs some 200km north-east of Mauritius, after their vessel ran aground on February 12, 1662. All of a sudden, they found a group of Dodos (scientific name: Raphus Cucullatus), roaming on the island.
In his memoir, Evertsz wrote: “I have seen in Mauritius birds bigger than a Swan, without feathers on the body, which is covered with a black down; the hinder part is round, the rump adorned with curled feathers as many in number as the bird is years old. In place of wings, they have feathers like these last, black and curved, without webs.” He added: “They have no tongues, the beak is large, curving a little downwards; their legs are long, scaly, with only three toes on each foot. It has a cry like a gosling, and is by no means so savoury to eat as the Flamingos and Ducks.”
Evertsz and other Dutch sailors had no idea that they would be the last humans to see live Dodos! It was because of their hunger, the birds were extinct in the spring of 1662. The people of Mauritius had discovered this bird way back in 1590. Since then, people had been hunting them to eat their flesh. Later, pigs and rats, along with human beings, arrived in Mauritius onboard ships. These animals, too, used to feed on eggs of Dodos.
Dodo skeleton cast and model based on modern research, at Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Interestingly, the meat of Dodo was not at all delicious! “Even a long boiling would scarcely make them tender,” stressed the 17th Century Dutch sailor. Unfortunately, this did not save them! Perhaps, the birds that could not fly had to leave this world due to their inherent disadvantages. They were not afraid of humans, who were unknown creatures for them. Therefore, they had made no attempt to escape. Instead, they tried to make friendship with men, and paid the price! Evertsz recalled that this particular nature of the Dodos had made their job easier, as they did not have to struggle to kill those birds. “We lost our firearms in the accident,” he wrote.
The Dodos helped the Dutch sailors survive for nearly three months! When the English ship ‘Truroe‘ rescued them in May 1662, the Dodos had already left this world! Twenty-six years later (in 1688), Dutch hunter Isaac Johannes Lamotius claimed that he found Dodos on the Saint Brandon Rocks! However, his description did not match with that of Evertsz’s, as the Dodos had no red tails as claimed by Lamotius. This new species had been named ‘Dodoers‘ in Flemish (language)…
The Nicobar Pigeon is the closest living relative of the Dodo
Naturalists have discovered many big trees, more then 300-year-old, on that shore that have no new generation. With their death, the species will disappear. It has a close relationship with the extinction of the Dodos! The Dodos used to eat the fruits of these trees… thus, helping the trees grow. With the extinction of the Dodos, these trees are also on the verge of extinction! So, the Naturalists have made a final attempt to save them by bringing some Turkeys to this island.
Unlike the Dodos, the trees have given an opportunity to humans to save them! The Dodos exist only in paintings, and at places, in the Taxidermy. They might have wanted to make friendship with an unknown species out of curiosity… so, they did not try to escape. They had to sacrifice their existence in order to realise that there could not be a friendship between them and predators of such a nature!
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