Above picture:  At risk to mice.  A breeding pair of Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli on Marion Island; photograph by Michelle Risi

The Mouse-Free Marion Project is pleased to announce the appointment of three more International Patrons.  They are Antarctic scientist and conservationist Professor Steven Loudon Chown FAA, South African businesswoman Gloria Serobe and Christel Takigawa, anchorwoman based in Japan.  They follow the earlier appointments as International Patrons of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and seabird author and illustrator Peter Harrison MBE.

Abbreviated biographies of each new International Patron follow.

Professor Steven L. Chown FAA – Antarctic scientist and conservationist

Professor Steven Chown FAA

Steven Chown is currently the Director of Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science, based at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he is also a Professor of Biological Sciences.  Previously, he was Head of the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University from 2012 to 2017.

Steven Chown writes to MFM News: “I am delighted and honoured to become part of the project, having long respected the ambition South Africa has to ensure the very best conservation outcomes for its sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. I am looking forward to being of service in this important work to improve the prospects of the biodiversity and environment of Marion Island.”

Before moving to Australia from South Africa in 2012, Steven was the founding Director of the DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology, an inter-institutional Centre of Excellence established in 2004 at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.  He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria in 1989 for entomological research conducted on Marion Island over two full years.  He rose from Lecturer to Professor at Pretoria over 1989 to 2001 before moving to Stellenbosch.  His 37-year career has generated an exceptionally voluminous body of work comprising more than 500 scientific journal papers, commentaries, reviews, book chapters, advisory reports, and popular and primary research books.  Focusing initially on insect physiology and ecology, his research has broadened into the study of biodiversity variation through space and time and the conservation implications of environmental change, including the means to mitigate it, especially within the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic realms.  He co-developed the field of macrophysiology – the investigation of large-scale patterns in and processes underlying physiological variation and their ecological implications.  He has served as Editor of the scientific journal Functional Ecology, and on 13 editorial boards of other high-impact journals.  His accomplishments include a large number of invited keynote and plenary addresses at scientific conferences and at international and national institutions and scientific societies.

Steven’s suite of publications on Marion Island, and those by his students (many of whom are now active in sub-Antarctic research and conservation), include several that deal directly with the introduced House Mouse.  In 1995 he co-organized a two-day workshop at the University of Pretoria to consider the desirability of eradicating the island’s mice.   The workshop was largely motivated by the successful eradication of the island’s feral cats in 1991.  This workshop might arguably have been the initiator of a long process that gained impetus when mice were first discovered to be attacking and killing albatross chicks on Marion in 2003 and led to the establishment of the Mouse-Free Marion Project.

For many years Steven represented the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (of which he was President from 2016 to 2021) at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, providing scientific advice on a broad range of environmental and science policy matters.  He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Royal Society of South Africa, and an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  For his science and policy work in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic he has received the South African Antarctic Gold Medal in 1997, the British Association Silver Medal of the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999, the University of Pretoria Commemorative Research Medal in 2008, the Zoological Society of Southern Africa Gold Medal in 2009, the inaugural Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica in 2009, the SCAR Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research in 2014 and the French Republic’s Medal of the 30th Anniversary of the Madrid Protocol in 2021.  Since his early career Steven has worked tirelessly to protect biodiversity in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic, devoting his exceptional vision and capabilities to the translation of science into effective national and international policy.

Within South Africa, from 1996 to 1998 Steven was the inaugural Chair of the then Prince Edward Islands Management Committee, which prioritised a conservation ethos in the management of these islands, promoted the study of alien species, and improved biosecurity.  This Committee contributed towards declarations of the Prince Edward Islands as a Special Nature Reserve in 1995, and a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 2007.

MFM Project Leader, Dr Anton Wolfaardt writes of his pleasure of Steven Chown agreeing to become an International Patron: “Steven is a scientist of international stature who is at the forefront of biological research, conservation and policy in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctica.  His experience and knowledge of the Prince Edward Islands, and his demonstrated interest in the Mouse-Free Marion Project, means his patronage will help raise the Project’s profile at international policy forums and meetings and incur confidence in its conservation significance and operational approach”.

For further information access Steven Chown’s professional profile and collaborations at https://research.monash.edu/en/persons/steven-chown.


South African business entrepreneur Gloria Serobe

Gloria Serobe: South African business entrepreneur

Gloria Tomatoe Serobe was born in Gugulethu, Cape Town on 20 September 1959.  She is a founding member and the Chief Executive Officer of WIPHOLD (Women Investment Portfolio Holdings), a black women-owned investment company focusing on acquiring and building strategic investments in key sectors of the economy from mining and agriculture to cement manufacturing and financial services.  Holding a BCom degree from Walter Sisulu University (then the University of Transkei) and an MBA from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, Mrs. Serobe has previously held positions at the Exxon Corporation in the USA, Munich Reinsurance Company of Africa, the Premier Group, and Standard Corporate & Merchant Bank.  She has also served as the Executive Director – Finance at Transnet Limited, and as a member of the Transnet Board and its major subsidiaries.

Her non-executive directorships have included being Chairperson of the Independent Ports Regulator, Life Office’s Association and the Metropolitan Group, and Director of the Airports Company South Africa, Export Credit Insurance Corporation, Express Kenya Limited, M-Cell, MTN, Old Mutual, Nedbank, Sasfin, the Financial Markets Advisory Board and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

Gloria Serobe writes to MFM News on her appointment: “When I first heard of the Mouse-Free Marion Project I realized its aims fitted broadly with my own work and passion over many years to improve the quality and sustainability of life for the whole of South Africa’s citizenry.  I was thus delighted to be asked to become an International Patron, joining others from around the world to help support the project to ensure the natural environment and birdlife of South Africa’s only overseas possession are conserved for future generations within our country”.

As a leading activist for community upliftment, the empowerment of women, and the sustainable transformation of the South African economic landscape, Mrs Serobe has been awarded several honorary degrees: Doctor of Philosophy (Business & Economic Sciences) from Nelson Mandela University (2021),  Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Johannesburg (2021); Doctor of Commerce from the Walter Sisulu University (2020); and Doctor in Management Sciences from the Durban University of Technology (2016).

Gloria has also been recognised for her leadership in business and community activism with a number of awards.  Most recently, she was awarded the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies “Lifetime Achiever Award” (2022), TopCo & Standard Bank “Top Women in Business Lifetime Achiever Award” (2022), and the Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference “Pioneer Award” (2022).  She is married to Gaur Serobe and has a son, Zani.  Read and watch an interview of Gloria Serobe by the Harvard Business School in November 2022 here.

Christel Takigawa from Japan

Christel Takigawa; photograph by Ryugo Sato

Christel Takigawa is a French-Japanese television anchorwoman in Japan.  In 2014 she founded the Christel Vie Ensemble Foundation for habitat conservation of endangered species and animal welfare, especially for rescued dogs and cats.

Christel has written to the MFM Project: “I know of course of the sterling efforts that have been made in my country to bring back from near extinction the globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus or Aho-dori that has its main breeding population on Japan’s Torishima.  This albatross is a “Special Natural Treasure” under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties; the island itself is a “Natural Treasure” (click here).  I have also learnt that the bird-scaring lines or ‘tori lines’ that reduce mortality of seabirds, including albatrosses, at sea were first designed and deployed by the Captain of a Japanese longliner fishing for tuna.  I hope my becoming a Patron of the Mouse-Free Marion Project can help conserve these iconic birds of the world’s oceans, especially those threatened of local extinction by invasive House Mice on Marion Island.”

Christel Takigawa was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2013 and a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Mérite in 2018, both by France.

International Patrons of the MFM Project help raise awareness and credibility of the Project by sharing their reputation and visibility.  They lend their names to the project by their endorsements, by helping to raise publicity and, when possible, by attending fund-raising and other events held by the project.  The MFM Project thanks its five International Patrons and looks forward to working closely with them as it prepares to eradicate House Mice on the largest island ever attempted in a single operation.

John Cooper, News Correspondent & Sue Tonin, Assistant Project Manager, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 10 October 2023


A Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma 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.