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Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Bloomsbury USA (first published May 24th 2011)
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Community Reviews

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I had a lot of trouble getting through certain sections of this book. I admit, I am sensitive. In this book, there were a lot of animals getting killed, getting poisoned, tortured, and eaten alive.

It is what you would expect about a book about endangered and extinct animals, but it was still hard to read at times. I was thinking about not finishing the book when a friend of mine suggested that I shouldn't read the book if I wasn't getting anything out of it. I concluded that I should finish the
This could have been dry, and it could have been pedantic, and it could have been a tremendous bore, a look at how human-ferried predators--especially fearsomely adaptable rats--laid waste to island avifauna and the grim solutions that were finally agreed upon. Imagine trying to make the mass eating of flightless birds and other creatures by rats, and the subsequent campaign to poison rats en masse anything less than grim.... then try developing a deep, almost empathic compassion for the rat, ma ...more
Just A. Bean
Informative and easy to read pop history of conservation by killing all the things. The author has a lively style full of character studies and military metaphors, and entirely adverse to end notes. The book started with extensive and graphic descriptions of the losses caused to island biodiversity by the introduction of new mammals (mostly rats, but also ferrets, cats, goats, pigs, etc, and also humans themselves). Pretty grim stuff, but the author needed it to justify the mass slaughter that f ...more
The eradication of predators in order to save the native species. I was hoping for a National Geo program instead of a book. After reading it, I realized that will never happen due to the sensitive topic of "killing animals", like 160,000 goats in Galapagos to save the giant tortoise. So this book is as good as it can get to know the history and how the environmentalist did it. A very good read.
Paul Heikkila
Conservationists work to restore bird populations to islands (off New Zealand, in the Bering Sea, off the coasts of California and Mexico) by the extermination of introduced predators (rats, feral cats, goats, pigs, rabbits, weasels....). Can Manhattan be next? Bibliography. Wonderful science writing. Maybe not for the squeamish. Don't let Kitty see you reading this.
Bruce Rideout
The author does a masterful job of turning what could be a dry and depressing conservation issue into a riveting and hopeful story. Very interesting and informative; not dry science and not fluff story-telling.
Christopher Greffin
Rat Island by William Stolzenburg looks at a type of ecological problem we don’t often hear about, but which has caused the extinction of countless strange and beautiful species of animal: invasive species that thrive by killing isolated island ecosystems. It makes one realize how truly fragile these places are, and how special they are as well.

The breadth of what is covered, from the history of these places, to how the invaders reek havoc, to what has and continues to be done, painstakingly, t
Very interesting story of human destruction and reconstruction and the philosophical viewpoint behind out mistakes and our choices.
Aug 31, 2011 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
As heard on the NPR Books podcast.
We've all heard about the direct impact that man has had on numerous ecologies, how humans have helped spur the latest great extinction event*. But what is rather less well-known is the impact we've had through the introduction (accidental or deliberate but poorly considered) of invasive species - cats, weasels, arctic foxes and most especially RATS.

Scientists estimate that at least 103 species of animals - mostly birds - have gone extinct due primarily to predation by introduced rats for which
Jane Walker
Very interesting; the story of how islands all over the globe have been invaded by alien species which devastate the native fauna, and how individuals and countries have learned to combat this invasion. Stolzenburg reflects the conflicts between the conservationists, who have to wipe out the rats and other invaders, and those who campaign against this (to my mind, wrongly).
Riveting accounts of invasive species on selected islands and what has been done to eradicate them. This is not just a book about Rat Island, as I had supposed, but includes background on invasive mammals and the history of attempts at their eradication. The ones in this book have been mostly in New Zealand, but also in other places such as Baja California and the Channel Islands. Rat Island is a lead-in to Kiska, which seems to be the ultimate goal. The writing is very suspenseful and what it c ...more
Good book. Very good book. This is essentially a tale of plunder by rats of the worlds former greatest bird colonies. Incredibly researched and extremely well written. Heart breaking tales of demise of spectacular bird assemblages
Very understandable and easy to read. Loved the use of stories. Very well-written and enjoyable, a quick read. Really helps normal people understand a complex and often controversial environmental issue. Doesn't overwhelm with quotes, science, and statistics and gets to the point quickly and in a way so that a normal person can comprehend. Overall: very enjoyable, easy to read, understandable,well-written, and I learned a great deal.
Christine H
Fabulous. Well written.
Diane Henry
May 16, 2015 Diane Henry marked it as to-read
Via Ed young
Jun 04, 2012 Wanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Conservationists, Birders
A well written book on the difficulties of eliminating introduced species from island habitats. Introduced animals and plants cause so many problems--the author doesn't shy away from those, describes the process even-handedly and examines both sides of the issue. Yes it is expensive and yes, the introduced animals do get killed. But what is a rare bird worth? To me, it is worth a lot and I appreciate the hard work of those who have cleared islands of rats, cats, goats, etc.
So much of this book is chilling and horrifying and graphic- be warned that if you have a hard time reading about teeming waves of rodents leaving carnage in their wake, you may want to be careful with this one. A tale worth reading- it's about hubris and inattention and making things worse under the guise of making them better. It's also, gladly, about learning from mistakes sometimes. And doing better over time. Well worth reading if you are the conservation-minded sort.
A. J.
This is a book you have to give time. It is extremely depressing initially. The damage done by humans directly and indirectly is painful to read about. We are the worst invasive species of all. The ways a handful of folks have attempted to rectify a small percentage of our destruction is encouraging ( both equally uplifting and simultaneously sad (spraying tons of poisons over large areas...)). Our species needs to slow down before we exterminate many more.
Jim Corson
If you are at all involved with invasive species, as I am. This is a sobering book about the often misguided attempts to deal with invasive species and the consequences of not dealing with them. It is worth reading!
Kathleen McRae
Extremely interesting book about islaNDS around the world that are sanctuaries for bird colonies and what happens when a predator species is accidentally or not, introduced and the controversial methods that conservationists use to restore a habitat.the islands he discussed ranged from New Zealand to the Aleutians to Islands off the California and Baja coasts.
Basically everyone else in the class we read this for hated it. But I thought it was fucking fascinating and I have been inundating the people in my life with facts I learned from this. FACT: rats enjoy being tickled. FACT: it is really hard to remove all of the rats from islands. FACT: rats will straight up eat endangered species. OH NO, what to doooo
Conservation is (as the saying goes) all about killing things. And this is the book all about killing rats on islands - from the very beginnings (here is New Zealand), to the triumphs, the controversies and the times it'd didn't quite go right. Still, for a book on biodiversity (island biodiversity at that!) this book left me hopeful.
It's not very often a book - for that matter anything or anyone - changes my mind on an issue. But I have to say I've had to rethink my position on poison used for conservation. Go figure.
Science For The People
Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #205 on March 8, 2013, during an interview with author William Stolzenburg.
Chris Pederson
The story of conservationist's fight against invasive species. Hopefully we can save all the planet's islands from fox, goats, cats, weasels, pigs, and rats.
A must read for anyone interested in conservation ecology.
Cheryl marked it as to-read
Jul 01, 2015
Tina Denson
Tina Denson marked it as to-read
Jun 24, 2015
Zach Nuttall
Zach Nuttall marked it as to-read
Jun 23, 2015
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