Saturday 10 December 2016

Rare dodo skeleton could sell for £500,000 at auction

Published 17/11/2016 | 10:59

The 95 per cent finished composite skeleton has been painstakingly constructed by a man who started buying bones from private collections and auctions in the 1970s. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
The 95 per cent finished composite skeleton has been painstakingly constructed by a man who started buying bones from private collections and auctions in the 1970s. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The first near-complete skeleton of a flightless dodo bird to come up for sale in nearly 100 years is set to fetch up to £500,000 next week, auctioneers predict.

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The 95 per cent finished composite skeleton has been painstakingly constructed by a man who started buying bones from private collections and auctions in the 1970s.

The collector has now decided to part with the item, which is set to fetch between £300,000 and £500,000 at Summers Place Auctions as part of its fourth Evolution sale in Billingshurst, West Sussex, on November 22.

Its natural history curator, Errol Fuller, said the best examples of composite skeletons include those at London's Natural History Museum, the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge and the Durban Natural Science Museum.

He said: "I am sure I won't be the only one among dodo experts who thinks that this is an amazingly rare opportunity for the acquisition of one of the great icons of extinction."

Dodos, which were popularised by their role in the novel Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, grew to 3ft (1m) tall and were flightless birds with pigeons as their closest relatives.

An almost complete Dodo skeleton at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, which is expected to fetch up to £500,000 next week, auctioneers predict. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
An almost complete Dodo skeleton at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, which is expected to fetch up to £500,000 next week, auctioneers predict. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

First seen by Dutch sailors in 1598, they lived on the island of Mauritius and became extinct around just 70 years after their discovery.

The Mauritian government has since banned exports of dodo bones, and auctioneers believe it highly unlikely that another composite skeleton will come up for sale again.

Summers Place has a track record of selling unique skeletons. In November 2013, it sold a long-necked diplodocus longus dinosaur skeleton to the Natural History Museum of Denmark for £400,000.

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