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Nancy Pinter, age 11, of Napa, Calif., for her question:

Where does the dodo bird live?

The dodo bird waddles into the story of Alice in Wonderland. He is so strange that we suspect he belongs in the world of fantasy, along with tweedledum and tweedledee. This is not so, for once there were thousands of living dodos, but there are no dodos in the world today, and never will there be dodos in the world again.

He was discovered by the bold Portuguese mariners that sailed their ships into the Indian Ocean. They found him with flocks of his relatives in the forests of the islands of mauritius, reunion and rodriguez some 500 miles east of Madagascar. They named him the dodo bird, meaning the stupid one, because the trusting creature did not flee from them.

This was the year 1507  174 years later, the dodo and his entire species had perished. The last dodo died in 1681. If all the robins should perish, there would never be robins again. For it takes millions of years for each species to develop, and the events cannot be repeated. The dodo species became extinct forever when the last of the dodos said goodbye to the world.

The dodo was a big bird, but far from handsome. He stood two and a half feet tall, and his bulky body weighed much more than a thanksgiving turkey. He waddled along on huge feet and short, thick legs, and his helpless wings were too small to lift him off the ground. His huge bill was like the nose of a clown, and his tail was a clownish tuft of soft feathers.

We have bony remains of the dodo, a head and one foot to remind us that he was once a living bird. We have a picture of him painted by a belgian artist. From these relics; we can reconstruct his body and see what he looked like. We have the records from old Journals and diaries from which we can reconstruct the sad story of the dodo's extinction.    

Dogs and monkeys were taken to the dodo's islands, and they devoured the eggs and dodo chicks without mercy. Sailors and early settlers caught and killed countless numbers of the trusting older birds. A few were taken to europe to be studied. When they died, the rest of the dodos already had been wiped out on their native islands.

Sometimes a species of animal is wiped out by a change of events in nature. A change in climate, we think, caused the dinosaurs to become extinct. But mankind has also wiped out many species by cruel and thoughtless acts. The passenger pigeon was wiped out by ruthless hunting. The whooping crane and many other rare animals are now protected by law, for no sensible person wishes to see the dodo's tragic story repeated.


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