5 Reasons to Not Give Up on Saving the ‘Little Dodo’

The last confirmed sighting of a dodo bird occurred in the mid- to late-1600s. Centuries later, the animal’s only known living relative is nearing extinction, too.

The manumea, often called the “little dodo” or the tooth-billed pigeon, may have a population of less than 250 birds.

Their habitat, Samoan rainforests, has rapidly vanished. Non-native species like cats have slashed their numbers. Pigeon hunting also reduces the manumea population.

Scientists and wildlife activists are hard at work to help the little dodo survive, and Care2 recently started a petition to help. Here are a few reasons why we should all care about preserving this unique bird.

1. The little dodo is part of Samoan heritage

When Samoans mention the manumea, their voices hush in awe. They’ve called the bird “the princess of the forest,” biologist Rebecca Stirnemann tells Mongabay.

“Some people say they have seen manumea in the past but say sightings are now rare,” she continues. “The old people in some villages are particularly worried, yet they do not know what they can do.”

The little dodo is the South Pacific island’s national bird and appears frequently in local storytelling. You can find its image on currency like the 20 tala banknote and the 50 sene coin.

The manumea is so valued that saving the bird was the first project the Samoa Conservation Society pursued after the group launched in 2014.

2. All conservation efforts are connected

Stretching over five islands and a few coral atolls, Samoa is home to more than 70 species that live in danger of extinction.

On addition to the little dodo, threatened and endangered species include corals, fish, turtles, snails and the Samoan flying fox.

Losing even one species can severely impact an entire ecosystem – and that includes humans. Stirnemann tells The Guardian:

The people of Samoa also need the native forest which is not only beautiful but also protects water catchments. The presence of the forest reduces flooding during heavy rain and protects water for the dry season by acting like a giant sponge. Yet until it is gone the value of the forest is not noticed. Slowly it is being logged away.

3. The manumea is unique

Scientists haven’t conducted much research on the manumea, and few locals have spotted the creature. As Jeremy Hance notes in the Guardian, it can be easy to underestimate the bird’s beauty.

With reddish-brown wings and a bluish head, the species has earned a spot on the Zoological Society of London’s Edge of Existence list of birds that stand out evolutionarily.

4. Pigeon hunting is illegal

Samoa has banned the pigeon trade for more than two decades, but hunting is still common. 

While hunters don’t intentionally kill the manumea, about 1 in 3 in one area have inadvertently shot these birds. Samoan demand for pigeons – often the island’s richest — helps drive the little dodo’s demise.

As Stirnemann tells the Guardian:

People often think that forest meat is consumed by poor people who have to hunt in the forest to survive. But across the world patterns…are emerging that rich people are driving wildlife trade. They are often unaware of the impacts they are having since they often do not enter the forest.

5. The little dodo is vital to forests

Animals that spread seeds they eat and excrete are crucial to their environments. One study showed that elephant hunting, for one, hurt the wellbeing of trees in the area.

The manumea is similarly essential. The Guardian points out its big beak lets the bird eat native tree seeds whole.

As Stirnemann says, “When you lose the manumea, you lose the natural farmer of Samoa.”

Take Action!

Urge the Samoan government to crack down on pigeon hunting and protect the little dodo by signing this Care2 petition.

And if you want to make a difference on an issue you care about, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo Credit: Lionel Walter Rothschild

49 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner5 months ago

Wherever humans show up, destruction of life follows. RIP planet earth.

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Renata B
Renata B5 months ago

Pleased to know that they are not completely extinct but imagining sadly how it will end. Signing the petition.

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Sherri S
Sherri S5 months ago

Petition signed.

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Arlene C
Arlene C5 months ago

Merci Emily

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No W
No W5 months ago

thank you for posting

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Liliana G
Liliana Garcia5 months ago

Signed with a heavy heart.

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Leanne K
Leanne K5 months ago

Its always tragic, the death of any creature. Oh but extinction, that is too much to bear. Its always struck me as overwhelmingly tragic, the killing off of the dodo. Such a friendly, good natured, good looking bird. It would have been so special to see these birds with your own eyes. For them to be naturally unafraid of humans much like in Antarctica, seems outrageously special. Yet they were killed. Each and every one of them. Did we learn? No. Humans have always been selfishly cruel, heartless and stupid. Always.

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Leanne K
Leanne K5 months ago

I cant bear the thought

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Jonathan Y
Jonathan Y5 months ago

The "little dodo" aka Manumea isn't flightless, though it does resemble the big dodo somewhat in color. It's a fairly strong forest flyer, not unlike a parrot.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/manumea-found-strange-bird-seen-breeding-for-the-first-time-in-a-decade/

Actual sightings are nowhere near 250, that number is extrapolated across the known habitat. Recent sightings are a mere handful, but they do include a juvenile. This beautiful bird is Critically Endangered and may in fact become extinct unless a total hunting ban is strictly enforced and cats removed from Samoa's two main islands.

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Winn A
Winn A5 months ago

Thanks

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