Dodemus, a Sparrow Mercilessly Gunned Down by Domino Stackers, to be Exhibited at Rotterdam Museum
A hungry one-year-old female house sparrow (Passer domesticus) who back on November 14th flew through a window carelessly left open at an exhibition hall in the northern Dutch city of Leeuwarden and was shot dead with a Luftgewehr (See photo above) after she inadvertently toppled more than 23,000 dominoes has been stuffed and mounted and will go on exhibition later this year at Rotterdam's Natuurhistorisch Museum. The bird, posthumously named Dodemus (a combination of the Dutch words meaning sparrow and domino), will be exhibited, appropriately enough, on top of a box of dominoes.
More than one-hundred employees of the Dutch television station Endemol NV had been painstakingly stacking dominoes for weeks (See photo below) in an effort to break their 2004 world record of knocking down 3,992,397 of the tiles when the ill-fated bird flew through the window in search of food. After calling in a bird catcher who tried unsuccessfully to capture the sparrow, an employee of the network took aim and shot off its left wing and shoulder. Domino Day 2005 went on as planned and the television station established a new world record by knocking down 4,155,476 tiles but the innocent bird's senseless death justifiably outraged bird lovers in the Netherlands and elsewhere. It is a sad commentary upon human nature when a stack of stupid dominoes count for more than the life of a bird.
The Dutch Bird Protection Agency threatened to launch an investigation into the killing and an eponymous web site was set up at www.dodemus.nl in order to allow bird and animal lovers to express both their condolences and their anger. Although the site was temporarily commandeered by pornographers it is now back up and operational. Several Dutch radio stations even went so far as to offer cash rewards to anyone who would go to the exhibition hall and knock down more dominoes and thus sabotage the attempt at a new Guinness world record. Even though sparrows have been on Holland's endangered species list since last year, the shooter was let off with a paltry fine of 170 euros.
Since Domino Day was also carried live on the private German TV station RTL the bird's killing outraged animal rights activists in Deutschland also. The Deutsche Tierschutzbund demanded an apology on live TV from the event's moderator, Frauke Ludowig. "Eine Aussage von Ihnen konnte viele Zweifel am Image und der Einstellung zum Tierschutz von RTL ausraumen, auch wenn die Tatsache an sich tragisch und kritikwurdig bleibt," the organization wrote in a letter to Ludowig. (See "Erschossener Spatz erregt Tierschutzer," Stern, November 17, 2005).
Once Dodemus goes on display on November 14th, the anniversary of her untimely death, she will join several other unfortunate birds already preserved at the museum. For instance, there is a mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) who has the dubious distinction of being the first recorded victim of homosexual necrophilia, a woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) who was decapitated by a crow, and a water rail (Rallus aquaticus) who died while trapped inside a church.
Photos: Naturrhistorisch Museum (Dodemus) and Deutsche Presseagentur (domino stackers).