The First Human Caused Extinction The Dodo The Dodo was the first species to be eradicated by human intervention. Learn about this flightless dove and its ecological loss. Posted by Catherine Owen | Last updated: Dec 2, 2013 The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is the most famous bird species to become extinct at the hands of humans. This is both because it was the first such noted extinction, and because its very name has served as a symbol of derision over the centuries. It became extinct on Reunion Island in Mauritius in 1680. The Dodo's Appearance and Habits The Dodo was a flightless dove with gentle, placid qualities. Its body was plump, around fifty pounds when fully grown. The bill was hooked and green and yellow in hue. It had small, bright eyes, three plumes for a tail and tiny stubby wings. Unused to humans, and passive in nature, the Dodo would not even run away when pursued. It often sat quietly on its nest or even trotted up to its attackers. Along with the common Dodo, there were three other species of giant dove that lived on these islands in Mauritius, two of them called Solitaires and one a White Dodo. Though these birds were both more aggressive and more attractive than the Common Dodo, they too were slaughtered and had vanished by 1700. All three species of Dodo engaged in elaborate mating rituals, clapping their shrunken wings against their sides to make a rattling sound. They only laid one egg at a time, the parents remaining a unit to raise the single chick. They were so sensitive, one observer of the day wrote, "When caught, they make no sound, but shed tears" (Day 30). The Dodo's Extinction The Dodo disappeared for two main reasons, both of them human created. The first was rapaciousness, not brought on solely by hunger, as there were lots of other birds to eat on the island, but by the desire to eradicate this species. When Portuguese sailors landed on this island in the 1620s, they began the easy slaughter of the Dodo. They would walk up to it and simply club it to death. Its meat wasn't even tasty, neither was it a pest. Calling the bird a name that meant "stupid" in their language, the sailors determined to rid the island of this flightless dove. In 1644, the situation worsened for the Dodo as it became a Dutch colony. The settlers brought rats and pigs with them, as well as pet monkeys, dogs and cats. Any bird that the colonizers didn't directly kill, the animals attached to them did. While the Dodos might have lived peaceably with the humans, the pigs and monkeys overran the island and the rats caused them to flee. By then the Dodo was extinct. With the Dodo's death, other species that relied on it for survival also died out. For instance, the Calvaria tree stopped reproducing after the Dodo vanished. The tree was dependent on germination created by the seeds the Dodo had digested. An ecological web was thereby ruptured by human carelessness and no one on earth will ever see the Dodo again.