Above picture: Team VORK on Gough Island.  From left: Vonica Perold, Roelf Daling and Kim Stevens

‘Team VORK’ is made up of three South African researchers, Vonica Perold, Roelf Daling and Kim Stevens, currently based in the South Atlantic where they are spending a straight two years monitoring threatened seabirds for the Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP).  This year GIRP successfully completed the application of aerial bait to rid the island of its seabird-attacking House Mice.  The team has recently sponsored three hectares towards the Mouse-Free Marion Project, writing to MFM News: “We’ve witnessed first-hand the devastating impacts of invasive House Mice on both Gough and Marion Islands.  Seeing chicks of various seabird species being eaten alive by mice is heart-breaking and makes one feel helpless.  However, being part of the Gough Island Restoration Programme has given us hope that a similar eradication effort can succeed on Marion Island, and therefore we decided to make a combined three-hectare sponsorship for Mouse-Free Marion.”

Previously, Kim and Vonica had spent extended periods on Marion Island, studying seabirds and collecting information towards their PhDs with the University of CapeTown’s FitzPatrick Institute of African OrnithologyVonica overwintered on Marion Island as a seabird field assistant for the FitzPatrick Institute in 2014/2015.  Her PhD project is entitled “Temporal and spatial heterogeneity in marine plastic pollution: seabirds, neuston nets, and beach litter”.  Kim’s PhD research has concentrated on the globally and regionally Endangered Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma which she has studied on Marion over two year-long stays during 2013/14 and 2016/17 (click here).  Roelf is an artist who works at the intersection of art and science.  His work in conservation started when he produced his first bird decoys used for scientific field studies in 2012.  He has since worked with BirdLife South Africa and the FitzPatrick Institute.  In 2018 he constructed and installed 30 concrete African Penguin Spheniscus demersus decoys at the De Hoop Nature Reserve on South Africa’s south coast to help create a new breeding colony for the Endangered species on the mainland.

Team VORK has issued a challenge to other Marion Island overwintering field teams to contribute to the Sponsor a Hectare campaign, saying “If you’ve ever had the privilege to work with the wonderful wildlife on Marion Island, we encourage you to support Mouse-Free Marion in any way you can.”

Sponsorships may be made via the Mouse-Free Marion at https://mousefreemarion.org/sponsor-now/

John Cooper, News Correspondent and Member, Scientific & Technical Advisory Group, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 16 November 2021