Above picture: His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh is flanked by Mark D. Anderson (CEO, BirdLife South Africa; left) and Keith Springer (Mouse-Free Marion Project’s Operations Manager; right) at a reception at South Africa House in London on 20 March 2023
The Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project hosted its first international event at a reception, along with the South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, His Excellency Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo, in South Africa House, London on 20 March 2023. At the reception, attended by 80 invited guests, Mark D. Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa and Chair of the MFM Project Management Committee, announced that His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who was in attendance, had very kindly agreed to become the Royal Patron of the Project. The Duke is the younger brother of the United Kingdom’s King Charles III. Mark noted that Marion Island and the nearby Prince Edward Island together make up the Prince Edward Islands. He also noted the Duke’s love for the natural environment and his commitment to conserve seabirds and other biodiversity. It is most fitting that the Duke is supporting the MFM Project in an island group that was named after his sixth-generation ancestor and namesake, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (and Queen Victoria’s father) by the British explorer Captain James Cook in 1776.
The Duke presented a sculpture of a Wandering Albatross in flight to Dr Frederik Paulsen Jr, one of the MFM Project’s most important benefactors and a Director of the MFM NPC Board, and thanked him for his generous support of the project. The 0.8-m high bronze sculpture by Robbie Leggat was especially commissioned by the MFM Project. Dr Paulsen will also receive a painting of two Wandering Albatrosses by acclaimed South African artist, John Meyer.
Keith Springer, the MFM Project’s Operations Manager, in his presentation said “I’ve seen first-hand the capacity of island species to rebound from predation. Once predatory rodents are removed, the breeding success of seabirds and abundance of invertebrates are quickly evident. This is a once-off intervention and, with the removal of House Mice from Marion Island, we can anticipate a rapid improvement in ecosystem functioning. We saw this, for example, on South Georgia, where South Georgia Pipits and South Georgia Pintails rapidly increased in numbers following the eradication of rats from the island. It is now 12 years since the removal of rabbits and rodents from Macquarie Island, and as I observed on a visit there last month, the island is unrecognisable from what it was like in the early 2000s.”
Guests at the reception included Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International and Beccy Speight, CEO of the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Also present were Professor Tony Martin, who led the successful South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project, ridding that island of its invasive rodents and the RSPB’s Andrew Callender, Director of the Gough Island Restoration Programme that worked towards clearing Gough of its introduced House Mice in 2021. Other guests included MFM Project supporters Dr Michael Riffel and Tom Riffel of Caring for Conservation, Tanya Bascombe of the European Outdoor Conservation Association and well-known cycling commentator and BirdLife South Africa supporter, Phil Liggett MBE, along with his wife Trish.
The South African Government was represented at the reception by Dr Lisolomzi Fikizolo, Deputy Director-General, Oceans and Coasts of the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). In his address, he expressed the warm regards of the Department’s Minister, the Honourable Barbara Creecy, to the guests and conveyed her sincere apologies for not being able to attend. He noted that the South African Government’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and the control of alien and invasive plants and animals have been championed by Minister Creecy. He went on to say that “This has led to a venerated partnership between our Department and BirdLife South Africa which was formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding in 2020. The MFM Project is a product of that partnership, and I would like to commend the project team on the tremendous progress that has been made thus far as they prepare to rid Marion Island of its mice. To that, and all their future efforts, we say Amandla!”
The Duke is the MFM Project’s second Patron to be announced; the first being the well-known seabird expert and author and illustrator of seabird identification guides, Peter Harrison MBE.
With thanks to Art Lewry and Morag Wood, Culture Communications Collective, for use of photographs taken at the reception.
John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 27 March 2023
The Mouse-Free Marion Project is a registered non-profit company (No. 2020/922433/08) in South Africa, established to eradicate the invasive albatross-killing mice on Marion Island in the Southern Ocean. The project was initiated by BirdLife South Africa and the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. Upon successful completion, the project will restore the critical breeding habitat of over two million seabirds, many globally threatened, and improve the island’s resilience to a warming climate. For more information or to support the project please visit mousefreemarion.org.