The Mascarene islands – Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues – were once home to an extraordinary range of birds and reptiles. Evolving in the absence of mammalian predators or competitors, amazing forms such as giant tortoises, burrowing boas, flightless owls and herons, giant parrots, and, of course, the Dodo, dominated the land. Colonisation by European settlers led to dramatic changes in the ecology of the islands; the birds and tortoises were slaughtered indiscriminately while introduced pigs and monkeys destroyed their eggs, and the once-extensive forests were logged. A now-familiar emblem of extinction, the Dodo was gone within 60 years of the colonisation of its home, Mauritius, and over the next 150 years most of the Mascarene's other native vertebrates followed suit.
The product of a lifetime of research by Anthony Cheke, Lost Land of the Dodo provides a comprehensive yet hugely enjoyable account of the story of the islands' ecology. Lost Land of the Dodo is richly illustrated with maps and contemporary illustrations of the animals and plants, many of which have not been reproduced for hundreds of years. Illustrated box texts look in detail at each extinct vertebrate species, while Julian Hume's superb colour plates bring many of the extinct birds to life. Lost Land of the Dodo provides the definitive account of this tragic yet remarkable fauna, and is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of our relationship with the world around us.
"This is an extraordinary book: a rare combination of true scholarship, popular science and a labour of love, beautifully written and llustrated, and well-produced. It will fascinate anyone with an interest in birds and is worth every penny"
– Bull ABC (Summer 2008)
"This book is a remarkable and meticuluous overview, which every scientist and naturalist with a serious interest in the wildlife of the Western Indian Ocean will find essential [...] The authors have done a remarkable job in putting together a scattered literature, not all of it easily accessible or available [...] an absorbing read"
– Ibis (October 2008)
"A must-read for scientists and non-scientists interested in biogeography, natural history, extinction and ecological history in general [...] one that a reader will want to keep on their bookshelf to return to"
– Ecology (2009)
"A wonderful account of the history of the destruction of the Mascarene Islands, beautifully produced [...] with the help of this book, the visitor will be able to appreciate today's nature in the wider context of what it once was."
– TLS (June 2009)
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For many years, Anthony Cheke was involved in the conservation of the avifauna of many of the islands and atolls of the Indian Ocean, and he has written extensively on these birds.
Julian Hume is an author and artist who specialises in producing accurate renditions of recently extinct species.