Above picture:  Mark Anderson and Mavuso Msimang (seated) present their talk on the Mouse-Free Marion Project to this year’s Oppenheimer Conference

The Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project, arguably the world’s currently most important bird conservation endeavour, presented a 30-minute address to a prestigious conference in South Africa last month.  The talk was jointly delivered by Mark D. 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.  Dr Msimang has served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African National Parks and was Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs until his retirement.

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.  ORC describes itself as “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”.  The 2023 Conference was the 12th in the series.

Mark Anderson writes: “It was an honour for me to co-present a talk on the MFM Project with Dr Mavuso Msimang, one of South Africa’s most respected elders, at the Oppenheimer Research Conference.”  He adds “The Oppenheimer Research Conferences have got better and better, and this year’s conference was excellent.  It is hard to suggest any areas in which these annual meetings could be improved!  This year I was especially impressed with the superb talks presented very eloquently by Africa’s young researchers.  The future is very bright for research on our continent.”

There were 420 people, most of them scientists, who attended the talk by Mark and Mavuso.  Many questions and comments followed the address from students, conservationists and senior scientists in the audience alike.  The video shown in the talk was particularly well received.  It is clear that awareness of the MFM Project has been raised within South Africa because of the Oppenheimer Conference.


The MFM Project’s 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 are the impacts of invasive house mice.  Ongoing increases in mouse densities, linked to the warmer, drier climate, have depleted their main invertebrate prey, driving the mice to attack albatrosses and petrels. The impacts are not limited to seabirds.   The Mouse-Free Marion Project, a collaboration between the Department of Forestry, Fisheries & 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, political and legal preparations and stakeholder communications, all of which are vital to create enabling conditions for a successful eradication.”

The annual 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.

Read an earlier article in MFM News on the conference and the MFM Project’s presentation here.


Mark Anderson, M. Msimang, M. & the Mouse-Free Marion Project Team 2023.  Saving Marion Island’s seabirds – the world’s most important bird conservation project12th Oppenheimer Research Conference, 4 – 6 October 2023, Randjesfontein Cricket Pavilion, Midrand, South Africa.  p. 28.

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 07 November 2023


Wandering Albatrosses display on Marion Island, 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.