Marion Island forms part of the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Island group, located approximately 2300 km south-east of Cape Town in the southern Indian Ocean. Marion Island is the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, which together provide globally important breeding sites for seabirds and other wildlife.
The location of the Prince Edward Islands and the highly productive surrounding ocean make it a haven for wildlife. The island group is home to almost half of the world’s Wandering Albatrosses, millions of other seabirds and other species of wildlife, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
Conditions on Marion are harsh – constant winds, low temperatures and large amounts of snow and rain make it a challenging place to live. The vegetation is restricted to grasses, mosses, lichens, forbs & cushion plants, and much of the island’s lowland is marshy due to the high precipitation.
Both islands were declared a Special Nature Reserve in 1995 in order to enhance protection of their flora and fauna. The Prince Edward Island group is designated as Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, an Important Bird Area, and is surrounded by a large Marine Protected Area that includes all territorial waters and large parts of the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Marion is a jewel in South Africa’s Island crown – it is wild and beautiful, hosts globally important seabird populations and charismatic marine megafauna. In the past, Marion Island was visited by sealers and whalers who targeted the abundant marine megafauna of the island. It was during these visits in the early 19th century that stowaway mice, were able to make it onto the island. The introduced mice have impoverished island habitats, devastated populations of native invertebrates and have more recently resorted to preying on seabirds. The mice are literally eating alive the chicks and even adults of both surface-nesting and burrowing seabirds. The scale and intensity of these attacks is increasing. Without intervention, many species are expected to become locally extinct. Removing mice from Marion Island to protect its threatened plants and animals – and indeed the entire ecosystem – is an urgent and immediate conservation imperative.