AND NO BIRDS SING by Mark Jaffe

AND NO BIRDS SING

The Story of an Ecological Disaster in a Tropical Paradise
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-75107-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1994




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