The first Portuguese explorers found no indigenous people living on the island in 1507. The island of Mauritius was the only home of the Dodo bird. The bird became extinct fewer than eighty years after its discovery. The Dutch settled on the island in 1598 and abandoned it in 1710, Mauritius became a French colony in 1715 and was renamed Isle de France. The British took control of Mauritius in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars. The country became an independent state as a Commonwealth realm on 12 March 1968 and a republic within the Commonwealth on 12 March 1992.
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless birdendemic to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. It stood about a metre (3.3 feet) tall, weighing about 20 kilograms (44 lb). The species lost the ability to fly because on Mauritius food was abundant and mammalian predators were absent. It was related to pigeons and doves, and its closest relative was the Rodrigues Solitaire, which is also extinct. The external features of the dodo are only known from paintings and written accounts from the 17th century, but because these vary considerably, and only a few sketches are known to have been drawn from life, mystery remains over its exact appearance. The same is true of its habitat and behaviour.
The dodo was first mentioned by Dutch sailors in 1598. By 1681, all dodos had been killed by sailors or their domesticated animals. This was not realized at the time, since the dodo barely left any traces after its extinction, and was later believed to have simply been a mythological creature until the 19th century, when research was conducted on some of the few surviving remains of specimens that had been taken to Europe in the 17th century. Since then, a large amount of sub-fossil material has been collected from Mauritius, increasing the amount of solid evidence relating to the bird. The extinction of the bird, within 80 years of its discovery, made people realise for the first time that humans could induce the extinction of plants and animals.
The dodo was made well-known to the public due to a notable role in Alice in Wonderland, and it has since become a fixture in popular culture. Its name has subsequently become associated with the notion of extinction and obsolescence.