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.
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.
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.
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.