Above Picture:  Louis and Charnelle du Toit at Puros Conservancy, far north-western Namibia

The Mouse-Free Marion Project receives funds from a number of sources.  One source allows members of the general public to make contributions through the Sponsor a Hectare initiative, which has set a target of raising 30 million South African Rands towards the total funds required.  A milestone reached last month was the project’s receipt of its 1000th sponsorship, from South Africans Louis and Charnelle du Toit who describe themselves as “ordinary birders”.  MFM News contacted the du Toits to learn more about them and what motivated their sponsoring a hectare.

“We have no personal connections with Marion Island, apart from being ordinary birders who have booked to go on the Flock to Marion 2022 cruise with Birdlife South Africa and MSC Cruises from 24-31 January this year.  We see it as a once in a lifetime opportunity in the company of like-minded fellow passengers with knowledgeable guides and lecturers on board, and on a very comfortable ship, which should hopefully not make us suffer too much in the notorious Roaring Forties!”

“Over the years we heard about the cat problem and then the mice problem on Marion, and at other places such as Gough Island.  The gruesome, bloody images we recently saw for the first time of the actual scalping that the mice perform really drove it home for us personally.  It is heart-breaking to see those large birds just sitting there, while they are being eaten alive from the head or neck.”

Charnelle is a travel agent and husband Louis is a financial advisor.  They met while university students and live on a bushveld estate near Roodeplaat Dam, north-east of Pretoria in South Africa.  Charnelle writes “we are amateur naturalists and have been actively birding together for almost 30 years now, as long as we have been married.  Our southern African bird list is on 730.  We hope to add a few more lifers on the trip to Marion, including many of the species that breed there, and we also hope to see some special marine mammals.”  MFM News looks forward to hearing they have bumped up their life lists to a round 750 by the time they dock back in South Africa!

The du Toits hope to donate more to the project in the future, saying “there is nothing like personal experience to enrich one’s knowledge, so that we may also convince family, friends and clients to get excited about and contribute towards this worthy project.”

On behalf of all the seabirds that this project will save, the MFM Project Team wishes to thank the du Toits, and all the others who have so far sponsored a hectare or more.  All sponsors receive personalised certificates recognising their contributions.

John Cooper, News Correspondent & Member, Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 27 January 2022