Sale of the century: Dodo skeleton set to fetch £500k at auction

Employee Lindsay Hoadley prepares an almost complete Dodo skeleton at  Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, where it will be the first of its kind to come up for sale in nearly 100 years. Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Employee Lindsay Hoadley prepares an almost complete Dodo skeleton at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, where it will be the first of its kind to come up for sale in nearly 100 years. Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

A NEAR-COMPLETE skeleton of a dodo is expected to reach more than half a million pounds when it goes up for sale in November.

The 95 per cent finished composite skeleton is the first to come up for sale in nearly 100 years, having been painstakingly assembled by a private collector since the 1970s.

The dodo became extinct in around 1680 and the vast majority of bones were found in the Mare aux Songes swamp in south-east Mauritius in the 19th century.

It will be sold by Sussex-based natural history specialists Summers Place Auctions on November 22.

In 1914, a less complete skeleton was sold by Rowland Ward to Cardiff Museum for £350 when Britain was still on the gold standard. With the price of gold today this would be roughly £5,000,000, according to Summers Place Auctions.

The auction house started an Evolution Sales line in November 2013 when it sold a Diplodocus dinosaur fossil to the Danish Natural History Museum for half a million pounds - it has also sold a woolly mammoth and other rare fossils.

Natural history curator Errol Fuller said: “When Summers Place Auctions was offered this dodo, you can imagine my excitement.

“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.”

Only one dodo skeleton exists which is made up from the bones of a single creature, the rest that are relatively complete - around a dozen - are assembled from the bones of different specimens.

It is likely to be the last composite skeleton ever sold as the Mauritian government has banned exports of dodo bones.