How Dead Is The Dodo?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 29th, 2011

Cryptozoological reports of the Dodo do exist. Dodos have been reported, and thus they are today cryptids.  Intriguingly, the phrase “dead as a dodo” means “undoubtedly and unquestionably dead,” whilst the phrase “to go the way of the dodo” means “to become extinct or obsolete, to fall out of common usage or practice, or to become a thing of the past.” If the Dodo were to be rediscovered, these phrases themselves would become obsolete. How ironic.

The following reconstruction is what Bill Munns created of the Dodo, and may be the closest illustration we have to how a living dodo looked in the wild.

munn dodo

The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Related to pigeons and doves, it stood about 3.3 feet (a meter) tall, weighing about 44 pounds (20 kilograms), living on fruit, and nesting on the ground.

The Dodo has allegedly been extinct since the mid-to-late 17th century.

There is some controversy surrounding the extinction date of the dodo. Roberts & Solow state that “the extinction of the Dodo is commonly dated to the last confirmed sighting in 1662, reported by shipwrecked mariner Volkert Evertsz” (Evertszoon), but many other sources suggest the more conjectural date of 1681. Roberts & Solow point out that because the sighting prior to 1662 was in 1638, the Dodo was likely already very rare by the 1660s, and thus a disputed report from 1674 cannot be dismissed out-of-hand.

Statistical analysis of the hunting records of Isaac Johannes Lamotius give a new estimated extinction date of 1693, with a 95% confidence interval of 1688 to 1715; the last reported sighting is from the hunting records of Lamotius, who gives the year 1688, but it has been suggested that by this time the Dutch name “dodaers” had been transferred to the flightless Red Rail, which is now also extinct.

Due to travelers’ reports and the lack of good reports after 1689, it is likely that the Dodo became extinct before 1700. Sadly, the last Dodo died little more than a century after the species’ discovery in 1581.

Flightless Fred Dodo
The Dodo nicknamed “Fred.” The Natural History Museum, London, photo. No museum or collection exists that has a real Dodo taxidermy item. They all are re-creations.


This museum quality replica of the Dodo is from the company Safari Ltd.

Cryptozoologically, sightings of birds resembling Dodos have been recorded in recent years from some of the islands surrounding Mauritius. About twenty years ago, people began claiming they saw strange birds, like Dodos, on the Mauritius beaches. Reports of sightings of living Dodos in the 1990s on Mauritius prompted William J. Gibbons to mount expeditions to search for them. None were found.

Don’t let the International Cryptozoology Museum go the way of the Dodo, merely a series of sightings from the past but apparently extinct today. Donate today, please.

Thank you!!

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “How Dead Is The Dodo?”

  1. Fhqwhgads responds:

    The Dodo used to walk around,
    And take the sun and air.
    The Sun yet warms his native ground —
    The Dodo is not there!

    The voice which used to squawk and squeak
    Is now forever dumb —
    Yet may you see its bones and beak
    All in the Mu-se-um.

  2. MountDesertIslander responds:

    My son and I had a long lunchtime discussion about the Dodo and cloning just this past week.

    The gist of it was that by all accounts the Dodo was a delicious bird when eaten. If this could be proven by researching old documents and journals, the food industry conglomerates would spare no expense in funding the scientific effort directed at cloning this bird. A new, whitemeat centric poultry alternative to turkey and chicken would be a boon to the healthy dinner table fare modern society craves.

    If the Dodo proved to be more flavorful than turkey or chicken we would soon have more Dodos scurrying around than we knew what to do with. The new saying might be; ‘descended upon the garden like plague of Dodos’ or even ‘the best invention since sliced Dodo.’

    Spread the word that the American market demands fresh Dodo for their holiday table and industry will respond (in a perfect capitalist world, that is).

  3. Finback responds:

    “The following reconstruction is what Bill Munns created of the Dodo, and may be the closest illustration we have to how a living dodo looked in the wild.”

    I know that about ten years or so ago, some very old manuscripts were found on Mauritius that had life drawings of dodos. They were very lean birds, with disproportionate heads. I’m trying to recall exactly where I saw them reprinted – it may have been in a Fortean Times.

    Also, “The gist of it was that by all accounts the Dodo was a delicious bird when eaten. If this could be proven by researching old documents and journals”

    Apparently, it wasn’t that good at all – it was a gamey, greasy meat supposedly. But sailors will take any fresh meat if they can get it, hence why giant tortoises and other large animals on small islands have had such a hard time..

  4. Finback responds:

    I found one article featuring some of the drawings.

  5. Pasketti responds:

    No discussion of Dodos is complete without a mention of Howard Waldrop’s excellent short story “The Ugly Chickens“, concerning the survival of Dodos in deep backwoods Mississippi.

  6. las responds:

    As this is an American site (I hope), I take all comments with a pinch of salt, as Mauritius to you is probably like a moon on some isolated planet. Like England is.

    Mauritius is a massively populated island, 40 miles across only, with a HUGE 1 and a half million populace anywhere you walk on the island. I lived there for 7 years and married a Mauritian woman. There are no beaches without hordes of tourists and no forests whatsoever, a few trees that’s it, all cut down to make way for sugar cane. That William whatever his name is should even book a flight to look for dodos is absurd. I have a friend who is the world’s foremost expert in everything to do with the dodo – on Mauritius and all the other islands around. He has published books on the subject. Ever read them? No? How does that not surprise me? Easily looked for in the UK and Amazon too!

    Mauritius is like Mumbai. Traffic, crowds and no place people don’t congregate. Densely populated. Massively overpopulated. Tourists. No stone left untouched. Incredibly and hugely populated so that anywhere you go, and there’s not much of it, someone will jump into view.

    No bloody hope in hell of there being anything there let alone a dodo. Most exotic birds have been hunted to extinction. There are bird parks to try and preserve the tiny parrots.

    Dodo? Come on. America, don’t be so gullible. Gibson, is that his name? English, American, I think there’s a Christian angle to him, grow up. This is not the garden of Eden. This is the world.

    Yes, there are undiscovered species in small quantities over this planet, but the dodo you can forget. That story of one on a beach spotted by tourists was originally an April Fool’s story in Le Mauricien, the local rag. Easy to research but, hey faith is better than research isn’t it?

    Reclassifying is all that crypto-nuts should be exploring.

    If you disagree, why not do some BASIC research before fools rush in.

    Pterodactyls being Frigate birds is another I could mention.

    God deliver us from ignorant and lazy people.

  7. Fhqwhgads responds:

    Ias, chill out. You should not be surprised if there is the occasional reported sighting of a Dodo in Mauritius; I suspect that there are occasional sightings of woolly mammoths in downtown Paris. “Reported sightings” are such a low threshold of evidence as to be useless.

    Beyond that, your post is so urgent as to be incoherent. For example, you mention that you have a friend who has written books that are sold by Well, congratulations, I suppose, though is not the most discerning of booksellers. However, you neglect entirely to mention your friends name! I suppose it’s too much to hope you mean Kae Nishimura.

  8. las responds:

    Hello again and sorry for my rant. Kind of you all to wade through it. But…

    I did live in Mauritius for many years, the ‘home’ of the Dodo, my esteemed friend Alain Grihault is a leading expert (professor, teacher and writer on the subject) on the Dodo and the Solitaire (a ‘cousin’ from from Rodrigues and also Reunion island I think) and I can swear on anyone’s life that if there are any Dodos on Mauritius it’s akin to finding one in downtown Mumbai. Mauritius is not the lonely little rock you may think it is. It is densely populated across every square inch of its soil. The ‘sightings’ were an April Fool’s joke by a local newspaper and it spiraled out of control. William Gibson wasted his time there apart from topping up his tan. Every piece of coastline is not only populated, it’s densely populated with Hotels and public beaches packed to the gills with Mauritians and tourists every day. You can not believe this with tourist brochures or websites where they ‘airbrush’ (Photoshop) people from the beaches. I worked in advertising there, part of my job was removing people from beaches by photo-retouching. To keep its supposedly sunkissed and unblemished image. I cannot stress enough how you cannot move on any Mauritian beach for burger vans, locals, expats, wedding parties, scroungers and vendors. Brighton has nothing on a Mauritian beach. Bondai beach is vacant in comparison. It’s incredible, really. You cannot even find a spot on any beach or part of the island anywhere. Think Goa. Think India. Think Margate for God’s sake. We would roam many a weekend and be amazed at 3 in the morning to find people wandering around any place you care to go. Sugar cane fields, beaches, woods, anywhere, someone would be lighting a fire and having a party or religious festival or just living there. One and a half million people over 40 miles. Picture it. before you picture an extinct bird wandering into frame among the 6 lane highways and the cyberhub of modern Mauritius.

    There were bones found in a creek a few years back and the way they’d been preserved led to some excitement but that’s about it matey. Mauritius may be under the metal staple of the centre pages of many an Atlas but it’s extremely over-populated and any bird likely to be found there is probably human and sick of the attention.

    Cheers and apologies again.

  9. bgibbons responds:

    Good Afternoon las, or whatever your real name is.

    My apologies for the late reply to your amusing posts, but I’ve been planning the next expedition to equatorial Africa. Surprising as it may seem to you, I actually DO engage in field research.

    Regarding the presumed-extinct Dodo and the island of Mauritius in general, my comments are as follows:

    1. Like you, I also married a Mauritian. Unlike you, I actually did explore some of the island.

    2. Yes, Mauritius is a popular tourist destination, and has a million plus people spread over 720 square miles, but there are still remote areas of the island that few people ever ventured until recently. For example, in spite of the early deforestation of the island, thanks to the Dutch and the French, Mauritius still has 37,000 hectares of forest. More recently though, Mauritius lost 5.1% of its forest cover, or around 2,000 hectares between 1990 and 2005, and nearly 10% of its natural vegetative cover. There is now no primary or old growth forest left. Since 1990, dozens of new hotels and resorts have sprung up.

    3. In spite of this, the island still has some 188 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 29.3% are endemic and 11.2% are threatened.

    4. Today, you can actually take a rainforest tour in Mauritius, but can you absolutely certain than every species on the island has been discovered and catalogued?

    5. Take, for example, tiny Round Island, an offshore islet, situated 22.5 km off the NE coast of Mauritius. It is the second largest of Mauritius’ offshore islands with an area of 214 ha and high point of 280m. Seven to eight species of reptiles still exist on Round Island; all of these are endemic taxa to Mauritius. Four to five species are now restricted to Round Island, Guenther’s Gecko, Telfair’s Skink, Keel-scale Boa, Burrowing Boa (possibly extinct), and Durrell’s Night Gecko. Known reptile extinctions from Round Island include giant tortoises. So what makes you think that a 44lb flightless bird is completely extinct?

    6. Granted, upon consulting the late Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans on this matter, he believed that it was highly unlikely that a Dodo has survived into the late 20th century. And I concurred with his conclusion. Had the full transcript of my earlier writings on this subject in 1990 been published anywhere, you would have read that I believed that those eyewitnesses who claimed sightings of a Dodo (particularly on the less frequented coastline of Mauritius), ‘may’ have observed a giant petrel, a large sea going bird that weighs up to around 17 lbs and possesses a large hooked beak not too dissimilar to the Dodo.

    In closing, my name is ‘Gibbons,’ not Gibson. And I was born and raised in Scotland, not the USA or anywhere else you might look down upon in your hilarious and presumptuous postings.

  10. Mannieca responds:

    William J Gibbons, it’s an honor to be writing any sort of letter to you and I hope this reaches you. I’m a big fan of yours and Cryptozoology and I’ve actually been following your work for sometime now. Like you I imagine, I believe that the idea of a living Saurapod in The Congolese Jungle is very intriguing and in such a dense and unexplored jungle it is possible for such a creature to exist. I had several questions for you and hope you are able to answer.

    1. In reading a biography of you online, it only said that two European Visitors had claimed Dodo Sightings. What made you believe their story and where was it that they had witnesses this Dodo?

    2. Have you or will you in the future travel to The Northern Australian Territory in search of claims of a surviving group of Theropods?

    Thank you Mr. Gibbson for reading this.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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