Above Picture:  At risk to mice: a winter-breeding Great-winged Petrel in its burrow on Marion Island; photograph by Stefan Schoombie

The Mouse-Free Marion Project is a partnership between BirdLife South Africa and the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.  The NGO BirdLife South Africa’s mission is to strive to conserve birds, their habitats and biodiversity through scientifically based programmes, through supporting the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources and by encouraging people to enjoy and value nature.  The NGO and its mission are supported by 40 affiliated regional bird clubs throughout the country.  By the end of 2021, 16 of these clubs had supported the MFM Project by sponsoring a total of 69 hectares (click here).

One of these 16 clubs is the Hermanus Bird Club, whose Chair, Ronnie Hazell, has written to MFM News explaining what motivated his club to sponsor five hectares (at R 1000/ha):  “I guess the first time we really took note of the devastating events taking place on Marion Island was when I was fortunate enough to take part in the BirdLife South Africa’s Flock at Sea cruise in 2017 and heard Peter Harrison’s impassioned plea for donations towards the Mouse-Free Marion Project.  Seeing the images of young albatrosses being attacked by mice is not a pretty picture, but, as you know, it did the job of attracting many of the audience who immediately went out and bought a hectare in order to sponsor the ongoing eradication work.  I was one of them.  More recently, our club has been in something of a decline because of the Covid pandemic and it occurred to me that whilst we were losing members, we still had some unallocated funds and that these could perhaps be put to better use than just accumulating in a savings account.  I motivated the idea to the committee when we had our first meeting in a long time and it was accepted, hence our contribution.  Having published something about the project on our blog, it was gratifying to hear that other members of the community, not even necessarily club members, have contributed by way of sponsoring a hectare.  The Hermanus Bird Club is proud to support the Mouse-Free Marion Project’s excellent work and looks forward to ongoing reports on the progress achieved.”

Mark Anderson, CEO, BirdLife South Africa

BirdLife South Africa’s Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Mouse-Free Marion Management Committee, Mark Anderson, has issued a New Year Challenge to the 24 clubs that have not yet sponsored a hectare (or more) towards eradicating Marion Island’s albatross- and petrel-killing mice.  He writes: “There are few more important bird conservation projects in Africa and even globally, and the successful completion of this work will ultimately save the lives of millions of seabirds.  BirdLife South Africa is pleased to be collaborating with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on the project.  We are very grateful for the support we are receiving from a large number of donors, including many of our affiliated bird clubs. Bird clubs and other environment interest groups who are passionate about seabird conservation should consider supporting this important cause.”

The Mouse-Free Marion Project thanks the following South African bird clubs that have given their support in 2021: Cape Bird Club, BirdLife Ethekwini KZN, BirdLife Free State, Hermanus Bird Club, BirdLife Inkwazi, Lakes Bird Club, BirdLife Lowveld, BirdLife Northern Gauteng, BirdLife Plettenberg Bay, Rand Barbet Bird Club, BirdLife Sandton, Vaal Bird Club, Wakkerstroom Bird Club, Waterfall Bird Club, West Coast Bird Club and Witwatersrand Bird Club.  Click here to make a sponsorship or e-mail your queries to Robyn.adams@birdlife.org.za.

John Cooper, News Correspondent & Member, Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 18 January 2022