Above picture: Help give seabirds a safer future.  Sponsor a hectare of Marion Island today; photograph by Ben Dilley

Summer in the Southern Hemisphere is fast approaching, and with it comes the return of many of Marion Island’s seabirds.  As one of the few landmasses in the vast Southern Ocean, seabirds rely on the island as a breeding ground, but the safety of these breeding birds is in serious jeopardy.

Accidentally introduced by humans in the early 1800s, invasive House Mice are preying on Marion Island’s globally important seabirds and invertebrates, adversely impacting the vegetation and undermining the integrity of the island’s entire ecosystem.  With each passing year this dangerous intruder poses an ever-growing threat to the remarkable biodiversity of Marion Island, compelling an urgent response to protect this important site and its cherished seabirds.  Without intervention, 19 of the 28 seabird species breeding on Marion, including its four species of albatrosses, face local extinction.

Both this Wandering Albatross adult and its chick are at risk of being killed by Marion Island’s invasive House Mice; photograph by Michelle Risi

The Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project aims to rid the island of its killer mice, with an eradication operation scheduled for winter 2026.  The project team is currently undertaking the detailed planning required, but is also hard at work raising the necessary funding for what will be an expensive operation.  This is where you can help, by responding to the Hectare Challenge.

To date, about 6500 ha (a little over one fifth of Marion’s 30 000-ha target) have been sponsored.  Individuals have contributed R1000 (or USD70) for a single hectare, or in the case of one extremely generous couple, Cathy and George Ledec, sponsored a magnificent 500 ha by contributing half a million Rands!  And it’s not only the more than 1500 caring individuals who have been contributing.  Hectares have been sponsored from collections made at birthday parties, from participants in a bicycle race, and by Romario Valentine, an eleven-year-old environmental campaigner, via a successful online appeal.

Sponsorships have also come from NPOs such as bird clubs, an honorary ranger association, and from South African clubs of Rotary International.  The South African-based Rotary Club of Knights Pendragon is currently the top-achieving non-profit contributor, having raised R100 000 over the course of a year from within its membership to sponsor 100 ha, placing it in the prestigious “Wandering Albatross” category.

Help us realise the restoration of Marion’s ecosystem by sponsoring a hectare or more of the island’s 30 000 hectares – and receive a cool Certificate of Appreciation to frame and impress your friends and colleagues!  If you have already sponsored a hectare or more, we thank you, but now please consider adding to or doubling your contribution.  You can also help by spreading the word and asking your relatives, friends and colleagues to sponsor their own hectares.  With your support, we can safeguard the future of Marion Island and its globally important seabirds.

To celebrate the return of seabirds such as the iconic Wandering Albatross to the island, our aim is to have a further 250 ha (or more) of the 30 000 hectares of Marion funded during November.  To make your sponsorship, please click here.

Funding for the MFM Project comes from several other sources separate to that of the Sponsor a Hectare Campaign, which aims to raise R30 million of the total funds required.

John Cooper, News Correspondent & Robyn Adams, Communications Officer and Project Assistant, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 31 October 2023


At risk! A Northern Giant Petrel broods its downy chick on Marion Island; photograph by Janine Schoombie, 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.