Above Picture: Elisabeth Moss

One of the several ways the Mouse-Free Marion Project is raising the necessary funding to eradicate the island’s albatross-killing House Mice is via the Sponsor a Hectare Initiative.  To date 1824 separate sponsorships have been made, bringing in close to six million Rands.  Only 15 individuals have sponsored more than 50 hectares; one of this small community is Elisabeth Moss who lives in the coastal village of Rooiels in South Africa’s Western Cape.

MFM News reached out to Elisabeth to learn more about her and to discover her motivation in generously sponsoring 56 hectares.  She writes in reply:

“I qualified as a nurse and midwife at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital in 1965.  In 1980 I married and farmed side by side with my husband growing grapes for wine in the Somerset West/Stellenbosch area.  After we sold the farm in 1998 we travelled and enjoyed camping in South Africa and in neighbouring countries and overseas.  I describe myself as an amateur but keen birdwatcher and photographer.

“I first heard about the Mouse-Free Marion Project online.  Then I was on the Flock to Marion 2022 voyage via a last-minute booking, encouraged by a member of BirdLife South Africa who has been living and writing about the birds in Rooiels for over 25 years.  On the ship I attended almost all the talks, and after listening to the various presentations, and seeing first-hand the magnificent birds in flight so close to the ship, it was hard not to play a small part toward the conservation of the feathered population of Marion Island, and the amazing birds of the Southern Ocean.”

Elisabeth Moss (centre) with Lucy Smyth (left) and Camilla Smyth (right) in 2018

Elisabeth explains that she was inspired to donate to the MFM Project for several reasons.  “Firstly, I had found out about the methodology to be used to make the island mouse free from a family member, who is a birder in New Zealand.”  She continues that one of her late husband Basil Moss’s granddaughters is Lucy Smyth, currently on Marion Island as an ornithological field assistant with the 2022/23 79th Overwintering Team, working for Dr Maëlle Connan of the Marine Apex Predator Research Unit, Nelson Mandela University.  She tells MFM News that for the last 12 months she has been following Lucy’s illustrated blog, which she hopes could appear in book form as an amazing adventure.

Lucy returns to Cape Town later this month, but not before she has reconnected with her sister, Camilla Smyth, who travelled to the island on the annual relief voyage last month as the 2023/24 field assistant on Marion’s 80th Overwintering Team for the MFM Project (click here).  I am sure she will keep Elisabeth Moss well informed of her stay, as her sister has done for her own island year.  Keeping it all in the family indeed!

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 02 May 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.