What did the dikdik do that the dodo didn’t?

Stephen Fry posed this question in series “D” episode 9 (“Doves” for those pedants among you) of that rather fun, educational time waster Q.I.  The answer?  Well that would be “hide” wouldn’t it?

The dodo, although not as tasty as say pigeon (to which it is related),  ate well enough for the early Dutch sailors who visited its Indian Ocean home of Mauritius to kill it in great numbers for food.  Why bother trying to catch pigeons when this big (20kg apparently), flightless “knot arse” had such a morbid curiosity that it practically presented itself on a platter to the sailors, waddling up to say hello…  Silly bird – a bit too gullible and friendly for its own good, and of course extinct since the late 17th century.  Dead as a dodo indeed! 

Unlike the dikdik which is still with us – as it worked out pretty quickly that its’ cutesy looks and delicious meat were going to be high on the list of delicacies for the predators of the savanah like lions, tigers and bears (well not bears, obviously) and therefore they perfected the art of running away and hiding, using their camouflage patterns to blend into the surroundings.

Now, one of Stephen Fry’s close friends was Douglas Adams who most will know as the author of the brilliant four-book trilogy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and of course the original radio series) who sadly passed away in 2001.  Now Adams also wrote many other books that are worth drawing your attention to, including Last Chance to See – a series of documentary accounts of his travels with zoologist Mark Carwardine where they try and track down some of the world’s most endangered species to draw media attention to their plight.  A brilliant book subsequently turned into two BBC TV series starring Carwardine, and in place of the late Adams, one Stephen Fry. 

Of course there were no dodos to write about in 1989 but plenty of other incredible birds and mammals that needed the world’s attention. My personal favourite is another big flightless bird: the Kakapo – who also steals the show in first TV series.  Apparently, as of February 2010, there were only 122 Strigops habroptila still alive – now that is just shocking!

A less well known Adams publication (with John Lloyd – creator of Q.I. – aren’t you loving these little gems of connectivity!?) is The Meaning of Liff, which can only properly be described in their own words:

“In life, there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist.
On the other hand, the world is littered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places.
Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.”

If you like this then there is a follow up companion too – but I want to move on instead to Dirk Gently and his holistic detective agency.  The reason? Well, I like the book but more importantly the new BBC TV version is just about to screen and well, I am hoping that it comes close to doing the book the justice… Oh and its about finding a cat (and I love cats) but maybe, just maybe it will also contain the scene with the dodo – bringing this post full circle to whence it began!

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