279 pages, no illustrations
Rat Island rises from the icy gray waters of the Bering Sea, a mass of volcanic rock covered with tundra, midway between Alaska and Siberia. Once a remote sanctuary for enormous flocks of seabirds, the island gained a new name when shipwrecked rats colonized, savaging the nesting birds by the thousands. Now, on this and hundreds of other remote islands around the world, a massive--and massively controversial--wildlife rescue mission is under way.
Islands, making up just 3 percent of Earth's landmass, harbor more than half of its endangered species. These fragile ecosystems, home to unique species that evolved in peaceful isolation, have been catastrophically disrupted by mainland predators: rats, cats, goats, and pigs ferried by humans to islands around the globe.
To save these endangered islanders, academic ecologists have teamed up with professional hunters and semiretired poachers in a radical act of conservation now bent on annihilating the invaders. Sharpshooters are sniping at goat herds from helicopters. Biological SWAT teams are blanketing mountainous isles with rat poison. Rat Island reveals a little-known and much-debated side of today's conservation movement, founded on a cruel-to-be-kind philosophy.Touring exotic locales with a ragtag group of environmental fighters, William Stolzenburg delivers both perilous adventure and intimate portraits of human, beast, hero, and villain. And amid manifold threats to life on Earth, he reveals a new reason to hope.
[Stolzenburg's] infectious enthusiasm should spark even in bug-wary urbanites a renewed appreciation for nature's complexity
"Absorbing and delightful ... Not just an enriching story, but a new, clarifying lens through which to understand the world around us"
- Thomas Hayden, Christian Science Monitor
"In dazzling descriptions, Stolzenburg demonstrates how the delicate balance between predator and prey is so essential, and his book, rich in dramatic accounts of life and death in the wild, is powerful and compelling"
- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Science writing at its best"
- Edward O. Wilson
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William Stolzenburg writes about the science and spirit of saving wild creatures. Having written hundreds of magazine articles, he is more recently a 2010 Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellow, the author of the book "Where the Wild Things Were", and a screenwriter for the documentary "Lords of Nature: Life in a Land of Great Predators". He lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.