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Stolzenburg to release ‘Rat Island’ June 21

By Staff | Jun 10, 2011

William Stolzenburg’s ‘Rat Island.' (Submitted graphic)

Shepherdstown resident and author William Stolzenburg will release his nonfiction book “Rat Island” on June 21.

The book accounts what Stolzenburg described as a controversial “rescue mission” to save the indigenous species that face possible extinction on various islands around the world.

According to Stolzenburg, the endangered species in this case are being wiped out by non-native predators that have been introduced to the island ecosystems by human beings.

These “alien” species include ordinary house cats, goats, pigs, small predatory animals, like foxes and rats, as the book’s title suggests.

The rat island in this case is both a real place and a metaphor for the many places where foreign species have overrun native populations.

Stolzenburg chronicles work being done specifically on an island in the Bering Sea, which once supported a wild bird population that is now being decimated by rats.

According to Stolzenburg the work being done to save the endangered island populations remains contentious.

He said that people have problems with the “rescue mission” being undertaken by conservation scientists because it amounts to systematic extermination.

Scientists have begun working with professional poachers to eradicate the foreign predatory species threatening endangered wildlife

Stolzenburg called the book “an adventure story about the unlikely alliance between these conservation scientists and professional hunters.”

According to the author, scenarios like those discussed in “Rat Island” are becoming more and more common though many people have remained unaware of the problem.

“Most people haven’t heard about this,” he said.

He explained that though the premise of the book may sound like modern-day science fiction, the hypothetical Rat Island addresses problems that are occurring in everyday life, even on the mainland.

Stolzenburg, who has been writing about conservation science for 20 years, has been living in Shepherdstown for the past three years with his wife.

Stolzenburg said that he believes the book raises a lot of important questions about our responsibility as stewards of the earth.

“It exemplifies why we should be very careful about introducing alien creatures,” he said.

Stolzenburg said the book offers lessons that can be applied here in Shepherdstown and across the globe.

Upon release of “Rat Island” Stolzenburg plans to speak about the topic addressed in the book at the National Conservation Training Center in the coming month.

The book will be available for purchase online and at bookstores everywhere.