And No Birds Sing: The Story of an Ecological Disaster in a Tropical Paradise

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9780671751074: And No Birds Sing: The Story of an Ecological Disaster in a Tropical Paradise
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A fascinating investigation into the reasons behind the extinction of birds on Guam becomes a cautionary environmental detective story as scientists discover that an imported snake with no natural enemies has decimated the island's birds. 15,000 first printing.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

An environmental reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the mysterious tale of the sudden disappearance of birds on the Pacific island of Guam in his first book. Just over a decade ago a serious effort was mounted by various scientists to discover what was causing the native bird population of Guam to decline rapidly, with the hope that such knowledge would in time save many of the species from extinction. Amid fears that Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was once again manifesting itself, their various inquiries led them to examine the obvious causes: avian disease, loss of habitat, and pesticide poisoning (Guam was heavily sprayed with DDT during and just after WW II and, more recently, with malathion, when Vietnamese refugees were housed there). But biologist Julie Savidge, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, had another theory. Her studies led her down unorthodox paths such as interviewing natives and contacting local utility offices, in addition to traditional approaches such as examining blood samples for disease and poisonings. Though ridiculed by some of her colleagues, she stuck to her early hunch that the birds were being eaten by snakes--the brown tree snake, in particular. Eventually Savidge was able to prove her hypothesis, but not before the snakes had become so aggressive that they were causing power outages and biting infants, even attempting to swallow their limbs. And, unfortunately, not before some bird species were lost. The brown tree snake, as it turns out, was a typical example of a foreign species introduced into an environment with no natural checks on its numbers. In detectivelike fashion, Jaffe lays the groundwork and ultimately unveils the solution to this sad but intriguing mystery. At the same time, he underscores the difficulties scientists face in attempting to breed endangered species in captivity and reintroduce them to the wild, especially when native habitat is lost. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Imagine this disturbing scene: the sun rises over a verdant tropical island, as lovely and promising as ever, but it's greeted with an eerie silence. Not one trill of birdsong. What has happened to the birds of Guam? Jaffe, the Philadelphia Inquirer's environmental reporter, describes how this puzzling and worrisome eco-mystery was solved. The first expert to tackle the problem seriously was a graduate zoology student named Julie Savidge. Her task was to determine if the killer was disease, habitat destruction, overhunting, or predators. Island ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to "introduced species," whether they're microorganisms, plants, or animals. Finally, after months of exhausting, often discouraging field work--a regimen that involved climbing trees, designing and setting traps, interviewing residents, and collecting blood samples from the few birds netted--a primary suspect emerged: the powerful, mean, and resourceful brown tree snake. First brought to Guam in the aftermath of World War II, this voracious, foe-free creature not only consumes birds and their eggs, but has begun to attack human infants. Scientists now believe there are some 12,000 brown tree snakes per square mile on Guam, an unprecedented invasion. And, in a chilling conclusion worthy of an eco-thriller, Jaffe warns us that these destructive reptiles are on the move; they've been spotted in Hawaii and other ports. A compelling account of an insidious yet natural disaster. Donna Seaman

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