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Rat Island


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As we face what scientists are calling 'the sixth great extinction' in the history of life on Earth - with the demise of tens of thousands of species every year - William Stolzenburg chronicles the highly controversial mission to rescue endangered island species by killing their predators

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.


Stolzenburg (Where the Wild Things Were) tells the story of oceanic island animals who make up nearly half of all endangered species. These animals are being decimated by nonnative mainland species brought ashore by explorers: rats, rabbits, and goats.With local fauna imperiled and islands overrun, imported species are being dispatched by any means necessary, including poison, spring-loaded steel-jawed traps, hunting dogs, and guns. Stolzenburg brings a keen eye and thirst for adventure to the front lines of this controversial battle, examining the research and perspective of scientists, conservationists, PETA, and the Nature Conservancy. With the Earth in the middle of the "sixth mass extinction" as tens of thousands of species die out every year, this study brings important attention to a little known issue, and Stolzenburg probes the moral implications of saving one species by killing another with remarkable fair-mindedness and a temperance rare and needed in the passionate animal rights debate. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

'[Stolzenburg's] infectious enthusiasm should spark even in bug-wary urbanites a renewed appreciation for nature's complexity' * Time *
'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 *

Ecology writer Stolzenburg (Where the Wild Things Were) highlights patterns of endangerment and extinction caused by the introduction of continental mammals (especially rats, feral cats, and stoats) into fragile island ecosystems. He offers a solid historical background on the topic and effectively conveys the complicated nature of balancing a disrupted island ecosystem. As signs of an emerging revolution in conservation, he cites the efforts of organizations like the Island Conservancy to restore such species as New Zealand's kakapo (a flightless parrot-like bird) and the least auk of the Aleutians using lethal eradication measures. Verdict The book may have been stronger had it addressed means of preventing the establishment of invasive species, as well as some successful nonlethal population control initiatives. (For example, in Environmental Ethics: An Anthology, Andrew Light takes a position similar to Stolzenburg's but also supports advances in biotechnology to develop infertility viruses as a method of population control.) This book will appeal to those with an interest in conservation, although some may not agree with the approach advocated by Stolzenburg.-Ryan Nayler, Univ. of Toronto Lib. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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