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5 Nature Books for Your Summer Vacation

Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World’s Greatest Wildlife Rescue by William Stolzenburg

Like stranded teenagers cavorting in a B-grade horror movie, island birds come ill prepared to deal with menace. In his latest book, William Stolzenburg opens with the gruesome fates that await native birds confronted with a seemingly endless parade of introduced rodents, cats and foxes. Consider Gough Island, off the South African coast: “Gangs of mice were rushing from out of the dark to attack birds three hundred times their size. The mice were chewing holes in the rumps of seventeen-pound albatross chicks as they sat, eating the living birds from the inside out.”

Islands, small and contained, make the dangers of invasives particularly severe. But the small and contained nature of islands also allows conservationists to set things right. Stolzenburg—one of conservation’s most astute chroniclers—tells this as an adventure story, full of characters, failed missions and easy-to-despise villains.

Through trial and a lot of error, conservationists now employ the latest research and technology to eradicate the invaders. It’s an often remarkable story of success, of turning biological desert covered in rat turds into an island paradise echoing with the chorus of baby birds.

But even in paradise restored, there can be uncomfortable truths. Conserving birds means many furry mammals must die, often painfully. While rats and foxes make convenient villains, they’re really just following their own evolutionary paths. Stolzenburg briefly mentions the concerns of animal rights activists, but is rooted firmly in the “ends justify the means” camp. He also fails to address the very real possibility that a new generation of rats might recolonize these islands, thereby starting the whole cycle anew. But these are minor quibbles: it’s a well-told, well-paced tale, that rare conservation book that is suited for the beach. Just watch out for what’s nibbling on your toes.

Reviewed by Matt Miller, senior science writer, The Nature Conservancy

(Image: Man reading by lake. Source: Flickr user santheo via a Creative Commons license.)

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10:49PM PDT on Jun 21, 2015

I'm certainly not one that would want to hunt as I think it is anti life and not at all about conservation but about killing and human arrogance! What makes us think that we have the right to kill another creature?

1:41AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

Your work article, blogs I mean over all contents is must read material.

spring break island

4:44PM PDT on Aug 5, 2012


7:43PM PDT on Jul 22, 2012


4:05PM PDT on Jul 22, 2012


7:25AM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

9:02PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

At least its not 50 Shades of Grey.

7:13PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Thanks for posting the list.

12:15PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

I save reading when I am in hospital and cannot move..if I am at the beach I enjoy the scenery..summer is short so I relax enoy the scenery!

6:02AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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