Dodo Ruphus cucullatus
David Quammen is my hands down favourite science and natural history writer and I have read his marvellous work The Song of the Dodo at least four times and I have no doubt that I will read it again.
I am always struck by the poignancy he imparts to this imaginary scene of the demise of the final Dodo, the last representative of its kind that would ever grace the earth.
Ruphus cucullatus had become rare unto death. But this one flesh-and-blood individual still lived. Imagine that she was thirty years old, or thirty five, an ancient age for most sorts of bird but not impossible for a member of such a large-bodied species. She no longer ran, she waddled. Lately she was going blind. Her digestive system was balky. In the dark of an early morning in 1667, say, during a rainstorm, she took cover beneath a cold stone ledge at the base of one of the Black River cliffs. She drew her head down against her body, fluffed her feathers for warmth, squinted in patient misery. She waited. She didn't know it, nor did anyone else, but she was the only Dodo on earth. When the storm passed she never opened her eyes. This is extinction.
As we continue to procreate beyond the capacity of the earth to sustain us, to occupy, modify, pollute, and pave over every square centimetre of the planet how many times will this scene repeat itself during our lifetime? It is a sobering prospect to contemplate.