The story of the devastating changes to the islands once home to the extinct dodo, are told in the Lost Land of the Dodo, a new book published this month.
Cover of Lost Land of the Dodo book
Giant tortoises, dodo, and many other extraordinary animals once thrived on the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues.
These volcanic islands were once very isolated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and many of the plants and animals that evolved there were unique.
This all changed when the Dutch claimed Mauritius in 1598. In the dodo's case, it had no natural predators. Dodos laid their eggs on the ground, which made them an easy target for introduced species such as rats and pigs.
Human colonists also hunted dodo and destroyed much of their habitat and within a century, at around 1690, the dodo became extinct.
Natural History Museum zoologist, Julian Hume, and Anthony Cheke bring decades of their own research together to tell this story of fragile existence in Lost Land of the Dodo.
Julian's superb colour drawings throughout the book bring to life the animals and environment before the Europeans arrived.
The unique ecological environment and the devastation suffered is explored in the book as well as human stories, maps and many illustrations.
The dodo, Raphus cucullatus, was a large flightless bird, probably much more upright and graceful than depicted in many of the images seen today.
Very little is known about how it lived such as why it had such a large bill or how it looked after its young. However, in 2006 and 2007, more dodo bones, along with other extinct creatures, were uncovered in the Mare aux Songes marshes in Mauritius.
Scientists such as Julian Hume are studying these finds and hope to discover much more about the dodo and the other extinct creatures.
Model of the extinct dodo in the Museum gallery.
The Natural History Museum has a dodo specimen on display in the Bird Gallery that visitors can see.
Dodo bones are extremely rare and the Museum is lucky enough to not only exhibit the first fossil dodo ever put together in 1866, but house many more bones for scientific study behind-the-scenes.
More than 2 million other bird specimens are looked after by the Museum and the world-class ornithological collection is based at the Museum at Tring.
Lost Land of the Dodo is published by A&C Black