The dodo was a flightless bird endemic to the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662.

However, a recent exhibition on a nearby isle has recovered what geneticists believe to be a type of living Dodo, or at least a close modern relative.

Until today, the Nicobar pigeon was considered the closest living relative of the dodo.

However, the new bird, currently unnamed, is said to share over 98% genetic similarity to the original. The bird’s weight and height (3 ft 3in, 23–39 lb) also closely match estimates based on fossilised evidence.

While species extinction rates have remained high in the last few years, the discovery is expected by some to bring new interest to conservation schemes.

Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough said in a tweet that he was excited by the news and believed that the new dodo could be become a “figurehead” for environmentalism.

Since the discovery late yesterday evening, the local authorities have cut off access to the island to the press while investigations take place.

NFN's Oliver Frost contributed to this report.