Reunion Dodo

Illustration of a Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)

With its tropical climate and rich volcanic soil, Reunion is perfectly suited for cultivating rose geranium.  Plantations for this purpose were first established in 1880.   The climate, coupled with the island’s isolation, also enabled evolution of the resident dodo.  Members of the species (essentially a swan-sized, waddling, flightless pigeon) were entirely confined to Reunion and the neighboring islands of Mauritius and Rodriguez.  The dodo thrived until Portuguese settlement in the early 16th century.  With no predators, dodos had not learned to fear man or his newly introduced companion animals.  As one sailor of the times wrote about the birds, “They displayed themselves to us with a stiff and stern face and wide open mouth . . . very jaunty and audacious of gait, and would scarcely move a foot before us.”   The rest is history.