Illegal pigeon hunting across Samoa is risking the extinction of the country’s national bird: the little dodo or manumea. Will this little-known island pigeon suffer the same fate as its namesake?
Nearly two hundred years after the extinction of the dodo, Sir William Jardin – a Scottish naturalist and bird-aficionado – described another odd, bulky, island pigeon. From the island of Samoa, this one was distinguished by a massive, curving bill that sported tooth-like serrations on its lower mandible. Given the strangeness of the creature, Jardine set it in its own genus and dubbed it Didunculus – the little dodo. Genetic evidence has since confirmed that the tooth-billed pigeon – or little dodo – is one of the closest living relatives of its long-deceased namesake. Today, the little dodo is at the very precipice of extinction, but it remains nearly as cryptic and little known as it did when Jardin gave it a scientific name in 1845.
The little dodo “is the last surviving species in its genus,” Rebecca Stirnemann said. “The Fijian and Tongan species [of the little dodo] are both extinct. It is the national bird of Samoa and appears in many of the stories often in association with chiefs.”