The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion These birds are not extinct. Welcome to … Dodo Park!

These bird have only the DNA of extinct dodos — not the behaviors …. (Matt Dunham/AP)
4 min

“Colossal Biosciences, the headline-grabbing, venture-capital-funded juggernaut of de-extinction science, announced plans on January 31 to bring back the dodo.”— Scientific American, Jan. 31

“Scientists, welcome to my island!” the old man cried. “I have brought them back to life! When you combine science, money and a special, enormous, genetically engineered pigeon, there is nothing you cannot achieve! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you … Dodo Park.”

The gates creaked open. Music that sounded as though it had been written by John Williams swelled from somewhere. Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler, two dodo experts who had been flown in to marvel at the park, looked around in confusion to figure out where the music was coming from. But they did not look long. For there it was, the very extinct creature they had been promised. Rustling through the underbrush. Just as large as life (about 1 meter). The dodo.

“Is it just dodos?” Dr. Grant asked.

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“Why?” the old man asked. “Are dodos not enough?”

“No,” Dr. Sattler said, quickly adding, “dodos are, of course, enough.”

“Pretty big park for just dodos,” Dr. Malcolm, another expert there for the opening, chimed in from the back seat of the party’s ride vehicle. “Kind of like the Tort Museum. You know, how far are people going to drive to see a tort? Didn’t you give it any thought?”

“Maybe their predators are here, too?” asked Dr. Grant.

“We are working hard to clone hungry Dutch seamen from the 17th century,” the old tour guide said. “But that’s much more complicated.”

“It looks like … a pigeon,” Dr. Malcolm said.

“Actually, they were a lot like pigeons,” Dr. Sattler said. “That’s their nearest relative.” She dropped a french fry out of the vehicle. “Hey, little guy.” A dodo rushed up and began biting the fry, flapping and making excited noises.

Several more dodos emerged. They ran toward the vehicle and began hopping around in great excitement. “Technically, these aren’t real dodos,” Dr. Sattler said, pointedly. “They are just birds with dodo DNA. They don’t know how to be dodos because there are no dodos here to teach them.”

“So they could behave any way they wanted to,” Dr. Malcolm said.

“Well, technically,” the old man shrugged. “But look at them. They’re dodos. How different could they possibly be?”


“What are you doing here, little buddy?” Dr. Sattler made room next to her on the introductory ride that explained the origins and extinction of these dodos’ ancestors. The bird sat placidly through the entire ride, even the moving portions.

When the staff tried to urge it off the ride, it snapped at them. They let it go around again. Afterward, there began to be a steady stream of dodos entering the visitor center and hopping on the ride, watching in silence until the arrival of Dutch sailors — at which point they all, in unison, emitted a loud, “Doo!”

“That’s unusual,” Dr. Sattler said. “Isn’t it?”

The old man shrugged. “I think they like the colored lights.”


The game warden led them to the enclosure. “Here is where we hunt the dodos, if necessary.”

“Is it necessary?”

“No,” the game warden said. “They’re very stupid birds.”

“What’s that they’re doing?” Dr. Malcolm pointed into the corner at the dodos, who were pecking intently at bits of barbed wire and pieces of wood, crying, “Doo! Doo!” in what sounded like great excitement. “It looks like they’re … building something.”

The game warden shrugged. “Well, it’s definitely not that. They’re dodos.”


“Here,” the cafeteria worker said, holding out a drumstick. “Want to see if it really is a Walghvoghel, or ‘loathsome, insipid bird,’ one of the earliest Dutch names for the dodo, if our Wikipedia-ing is correct?”

“I can’t believe you serve dodo meat here,” Dr. Sattler exclaimed, horrified. “No, thank you.”

Dr. Malcolm helped himself to an enormous bite. “Mm … meaty. No, no, I wouldn’t call it, uh, loathsome. Possibly insipid. Chewy, though.”

“Hey,” Dr. Grant said, suddenly. “What’s that, looking through the window?”

“I don’t see anything.”

“A dodo? I thought it was — never mind,” Dr. Grant said.


Thunder crashed. Lightning split the sky. Suddenly, all the power went out. “The enclosure!” the old man shouted.

The birds raced toward the car. “Get in, quickly!” Dr. Sattler called. It had begun to rain. There were dodos everywhere. Lightning flashed, illuminating several perched threateningly over the car with the makeshift ballista they had constructed.

Something enormous whooshed overhead. “That can’t be!” Dr. Grant cried. “They’re flightless. Dodos are flightless, friendly and trusting!”

“I told you!” Dr. Sattler said. “These aren’t dodos!”

The car began to shake. “Your scientists were so preoccupied with ‘dodo,’” Dr. Malcolm cried out, “that they never stopped to think ‘don’t-don’t!’”