Above picture: Romario Valentine is a skilled artist, here posing with his paintings of an albatross and a petrel

“When we take care of nature, we take care of ourselves” – Romario Valentine

South Africa’s Marion Island is the scene of a struggle for survival with global significance. Invasive House Mice, accidentally introduced by humans in the early 19th century, are preying on the Southern Ocean island’s globally important seabirds and invertebrates, adversely impacting its vegetation and undermining the integrity of the entire ecosystem. With each passing moment, this dangerous intruder poses an ever-growing threat to the remarkable biodiversity of Marion, compelling an urgent response to protect this important site and its cherished seabirds.

Now, as it is summer, most of Marion Island’s seabirds have returned to their breeding grounds. But the island is no longer the haven it used to be. The Mouse-Free Marion Project aims to eradicate the “killer” mice by an aerial drop of rodenticide-laced cereal bait over the entire island during winter 2026. To this end it has been looking towards the informed and interested public to Sponsor a Hectare with a R1000 donation. To date, 6700 hectares (a little over one-fifth of the 30 000-ha target) have been sponsored by more than 1500 caring individuals. Too much for your pocket? There is now an opportunity for those who find R1000 a little steep. Online crowdfunding platforms such as BackaBuddy allow for smaller contributions from those who can spare R100 or more, but perhaps not as much as R1000, the chance to feel they are part of the project. Of course, donations of more than the cost of a single hectare will also be greatly welcomed!

Romario Valentine proudly holds his 2022 Owlet Award sculpture and accompanying certificate received at a BirdLife South Africa function in September last year

Romario Valentine is a 12-year-old environmental campaigner who received BirdLife South Africa’s Owlet Award in 2022. Romario has been an active environmentalist since the age of six. He is the author of Protect our Planet – Take action with Romario which was released in September 2022. It’s a fun science academic book that addresses climate change and environmental challenges including guidance on how anyone can become an ‘earth guardian’. To date Romario has done over 250 beach clean ups and planted or sponsored over 455 trees in 31 countries around the world.

Last summer, Romario raised over R21 000 for the Mouse-Free Marion Project via a successful online appeal, Romario’s Seabirds Christmas Gift, more than twice his original target (click here). Romario is now repeating his appeal a year later, asking you to contribute – for the first time or once again – with the aim of raising as much, or more, than he did a year ago, repeating his campaign as Romario’s New Year Appeal for a Mouse-Free Marion Island. This allows you to contribute the sum you can afford, knowing that your contribution will join with others to sponsor a hectare (or more) of Marion Island.

In making your donation, please consider clicking on “Fees Covered’, so that the MFM Project will receive the full amount you have chosen. To subscribe to the free MFM Project’s quarterly newsletter provide your details here.

To learn more about Marion Island and the epic struggle it faces with the House Mouse, watch a video narrated by singer Zolani Mahola, “The One Who Sings” of Freshly Ground fame.

To contribute to Romario’s latest appeal go to https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/romarios-seabirds-christmas-gift.

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 05 December 2023


Both this parent and chick Wandering Albatross are at risk to attacks by Marion’s mice; photograph by Sean Evans, poster design by Michelle Risi

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.