Above picture:  Anton Wolfaardt, after completing his first Rhodes Trail Run in 2019; photograph by Leigh Wolfaardt

Anton Wolfaardt, Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project Manager, will be participating in the 34th Rhodes Trail Run on 29 June this year.  It is described as being staged in the tranquil beauty of the southern Drakensberg mountains in the Eastern Cape Highlands, surrounding the Victorian-era village of Rhodes.  With a limited field of about 300 runners, it is common for the temperature at the start to be below zero, and as low as -10°C.  So not for the faint-hearted!  Anton recently returned from the Marion Island annual relief voyage, where among many other walks over the island’s inhospitable terrain, he hiked some 70 km between the coastal field huts over six days on a “round island” in the usual cold and wet weather while carrying a heavy pack – good preparation for the winter ‘Rhodes’.

The mountainous route of the Rhodes Trail race

Anton says that the running distance is about 52 km, as the exact course can vary slightly from year to year.  It will be the second time he has run the event, following his first in 2019 (when he came a very respectable 69th out of 211 finishers).  Run at altitude, the race starts at 1800 m and reaches its highest point at 2680 m, with a cumulative climb of approximately 1600 m.

MFM supporters wanting to help the MFM Project, but thinking that sponsoring a hectare at R 1000 (or USD 100) may be a little too much for them, can now contribute via Anton’s “Running to Rescue: Saving our Iconic Seabirds” appeal with a more affordable amount via the GivenGain website at https://www.givengain.com/project/anton-raising-funds-for-mouse-free-marion-78938.

Well rugged up. Anton at the start of the 2019 trail race; photograph by Leigh Wolfaardt

MFM Assistant Project Manager, Sue Tonin, writes to Anton: “It’s a long and challenging event, but for a veteran of the 80-km PUFfeR (Peninsula Ultra Trail Race, an annual run held along the mountain spine near Cape Town), you will know how to deal with the pain.”  No slouch herself, Sue ran cross country in the 1990s, gaining Western Cape colours, so she will know what she is talking about.  There is deep appreciation for Anton’s ultra-distance running within the MFM Project Team, most of whom are either experienced runners, cyclists, surfski paddlers, hikers or long-distance walkers, and are all-round sub-Antarctic athletes.

With the goal of reaching R 55 000, equivalent to a 55-hectare sponsorship, in its first week Anton’s appeal has already raised over R 26 000, with 33 days still to go.  Four members of the MFM Team have sponsored up to a hectare’s worth each, and an anonymous donor has contributed over five thousand Rands!  At this pleasing rate, we expect the final sum raised to achieve and even exceed the target by the time of the trail run.  Anton writes: “It is a great honour and privilege to be involved in a conservation initiative as important as the MFM Project and to be part of such an incredible team.  The support we continue to receive from the public is both humbling and a profoundly motivating.   Every step we take on this journey brings us closer to our ultimate goal of safeguarding this remarkable island.”  Your donation will help safeguard Marion Island’s extraordinary seabirds and other wildlife.  Together, we can make a significant impact in conserving this unique ecosystem and securing a living wonder of the world.  Please be generous.

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 28 May 2024


At risk to mice. A male Wandering Albatross guards its chick in late light on Marion Island; photograph by Sean Evans and 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.