Above picture: At mortal risk from Marion Island’s House Mice, a Vulnerable Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans sits up on its nest; photograph by John Dickens, poster design by Michelle Risi

The Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project, arguably the world’s currently most important bird conservation endeavour, will deliver a 30-minute address to a prestigious conference in South Africa later this year.  The annual Oppenheimer Research Conference (ORC) is a space for showcasing and discussing the natural and environmental sciences, and conservation and sustainable development in Africa.  It is a meeting place for change-makers to shift the dial on biodiversity research and conversation.   The focus is impact in Africa and the conference welcomes global perspectives.  Conference goals include:

Profiling African research excellence,
Empowering young researchers and environmental stewards,
Building a network of biodiversity professionals, and
Hosting impactful conversations.

The Conference, the 12th to be held, will take place in Midrand, Gauteng Province, South Africa from 04 to 06 October 2023.  The MFM Project’s address will be the jointly delivered by Mark Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa and Chair of the MFM Project Management Committee, and Dr Mavuso Msimang, who chairs the MFM Non-Profit Company Board.

The 12th ORC Academic Committee, in accepting the MFM Project’s abstract writes “We are thrilled to have received over 160 oral abstract submissions, showcasing the immense passion and dedication within our science and research community”, and went on to say “your valuable insights and contributions will undoubtedly enrich the conference and provide an impactful platform for sharing your research findings”.

Scalped by mice at night on Marion Island, this Endangered Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma will not survive for long; photograph by Ben Dilley

The MFM Project’s submitted conference abstract follows:

“Marion Island is an important breeding island for 28 seabird species, including globally significant populations of several threatened species.  It is South Africa’s only Special Nature Reserve, an Important Bird & Biodiversity Area and a Ramsar site.  Amongst the greatest threats to the ecology and conservation of Marion Island is the impacts of invasive House Mice.  Ongoing increases in mouse densities, linked to the warmer, drier climate have depleted their main invertebrate prey, driving mice to attack albatross and petrels.  The impacts are not limited to seabirds.  The Mouse-Free Marion Project, a collaboration between the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and BirdLife South Africa, aims to eradicate mice from the island and thereby facilitate the ecological restoration of this globally important site.   The project is underpinned by research conducted at Marion Island, and elsewhere. In addition to the research, planning for the project must address a wide range of requirements, including financial, logistical, regulatory, political and legal preparations and stakeholder communications, all of which are vital to create enabling conditions for a successful eradication.”

The conferences are held by Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation (OGRC) which works to catalyse targeted research and harness dialogue between research and practice to create impact in African landscapes.  “Our work supports human wellbeing, protects important landscapes and develops better human-nature relationships for the benefit of the African continent.”  OGRC is inspired by Nicky, Strilli and Jonathan Oppenheimer’s passion for the conservation of Africa’s natural heritage.  The Oppenheimer family are recipients of numerous environmental awards in recognition of their contribution to conservation in Africa, which they continue to make through OGRC’s innovative initiatives.

MFM News will report on the conference and Mark and Mavuso’s presentation come October.  Please do look out for it.

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 11 July 2023


Unlike the other breeding albatrosses, the Near Threatened Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata, the rarest of the four, breeds inland on Marion Island; photograph 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.