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.
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About the Author
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.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Kiska, Kakapos, and a Note About War 1
Chapter 1 Over the Blue Horizon 9
Chapter 2 Resolution 30
Chapter 3 Fox Fire 50
Chapter 4 Cape Catastrophe 70
Chapter 5 The Night Parrot 79
Chapter 6 Battle for Breaksea 96
Chapter 7 Baja Cats 119
Chapter 8 Anacapa 136
Chapter 9 Escalation 152
Chapter 10 Sirius Point 162
Chapter 11 Rat Island 169
Chapter 12 Whither Kiska 200
Epilogue: Island Earth 205
Notes on the Sources 221
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Many environmental books have an eat your vegetables feel as they portray humans destroying nature. And, if you read enough of them, it's rare to come across something original, a repetition of bad things leading to a loss of hope for the future. This book is different. It's about a few people who have saved entire species from extinction by removing invasive species from islands. It could be as simple as shooting all the pigs on an island in an afternoon, or a massive helicopter campaign to poison millions of rats over the course of months. It's very rewarding, both the removal of the pests and the aftermath as native species return from the brink of extinction. I also supplemented using Google Maps as a visual geography of some of the wildest islands on the globe. These islands, which I'd never heard of before, are now part of my mental map of the world in picture, name and events. I'd normally read this book in three days but was so enthralled it took only a day and a half. Great story, great writing, educational and cutting edge developments. If I was in college this book would inspire me to take up a new career, globe trotting to remote islands and saving species in one fell swoop. Of course the idea has caught on with others and is gaining momentum by the year. Go humans.