Above picture: The Sponsor a Hectare Campaign’s map shows 6300 ha of Marion Island had been sponsored by the beginning of July this year

The Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project gives the opportunity to concerned individuals, social groups, clubs and the like to be part of the effort to eradicate Marion Island’s introduced House Mice that continue to kill the island’s albatrosses and other seabirds.  By way of the Sponsor a Hectare campaign, no less than 1860 sponsors have raised over six million Rands by sponsoring a hectare or more of Marion’s 30 000 hectares to date, attaining 21% of the original target.  Most sponsors are based in South Africa, but contributions, including some of the most generous ones, have come from people living elsewhere around the world.

The MFM Project aims to eradicate mice from the largest island on which this highly effective conservation activity has ever been attempted.  Given its remote sub-Antarctic location in the Southern Ocean, it is not surprising that the project will be an expensive one.  Mark Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa and Chair of the MFM Project Management Committee, says that “The budget is currently c. R460 million, and we have only raised one-quarter of the required funds.  Our team of six fundraisers, four of whom are USA-based, are working hard to secure the balance of the funds.”

The sponsorship campaign originally aimed to raise R30 million, less than 10% of the current project budget, and was certainly ambitious.  However, its value is as much for the awareness it has raised than for the actual sum achieved, although it must still be one of the largest “crowdfunding” efforts for any environmental cause initiated in South Africa.  For this alone, it might be regarded as a success and the project team thanks every one of its 1860 sponsors to date.

Early days: the MFM News Correspondent (second left) proposes a hectare sponsorship to then BirdLife South Africa seabird staff, Andrea Angel, Nini van der Merwe and Ross Wanless in 2017

On a personal note, the Sponsor a Hectare Campaign for Marion Island was my own idea, essentially copied from New Zealand’s “Million Dollar Mouse” crowd-funding initiative that helped with the successful eradication of House Mice on Antipodes Island in 2016.  Only fair then, that I put “my money where my mouth is” and make my own contribution.  To mark a long career as a marine ornithologist during which I was lucky enough to have visited many localities that support populations of seabirds around the world, I am increasing my existing sponsorship by one hectare for each of my visits to 12 islands that support breeding albatrosses in Australia, Falklands, Galapagos, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tristan da Cunha and the United Kingdom.  If I can encourage just a handful or two of the many who have sponsored a hectare or more so far to increase their own hectare sponsorships, I shall be happy!  You can make your own sponsorship right now here.

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 25 July 2023


Sheltered from the prevailing weather by a backing rock near the coast, a Northern Giant Petrel broods its downy chick on Marion Island; photograph by Janine Schoombie 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.