Seabird Sanctuary
Photo Credit: Michelle Risi

Birdlife South Africa is closer to achieving what is considered one of the most important conservation efforts yet, thanks to a global team-up that hopes to return Marion Island (where numerous bird species face extinction) to its former seabird sanctuary status.


Global (27 October 2023) — Conservation powerhouse BirdLife South Africa has spread its wings to help even more birds around the world after joining global island conservation mission, Island-Ocean Connection Challenge (IOCC). Part of the mission is to preserve and restore island paradises to their former seabird sanctuary status—no small-scale ambition.

Through Birdlife South Africa, Marion Island has also joined the island conservation movement thanks to an existing project established by BirdLife and the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment—The Mouse-Free Marion Project which aims to restore the Island’s natural ecosystem and biodiversity as a seabird sanctuary, in what experts consider to be one of the most important conservation projects around.

Where is Marion Island and What Challenges Does Its Bird Life Face?

Marion Island is a remote and windswept refuge halfway between Cape Town and Antarctica is the largest of the two Prince Edward Islands (South African territory). Though the island is uninhabited by humans, its place as a biodiversity treasure is still under impact because of past human interference.

It is home to a quarter of the world’s Wandering Albatrosses, which are currently deeply threatened alongside 27 other seabird species.

“Marion Island was, and should be, a haven for wildlife, but invasive house mice accidentally introduced by sealers in the early-1800s have devastated the island’s invertebrates and plants, and the resultant food shortage has drive the mice to now prey on seabirds,” explains Birdlife South Africa.

The big problem is that the birds face extinction because of the mice and the climate change factors that have caused shifts in the natural ecosystem.

“Put simply, if we can remove invasive mice from Marion Island we can address once and for all one of the significant threats that the island’s seabirds face, and thus facilitate a favourable conservation future for this globally important island and its magnificent seabirds. 

Rather than containing or mitigating the threat, we solve it. Although the seabird populations on Marion Island are being increasingly impacted by mice, we have an opportunity to intervene to remove that threat, and allow the seabird populations to recover naturally without the need for species reintroduction programmes,” says Dr Anton Wolfaardt, Mouse-Free Marion Project Manager.

He adds:

“The global importance of the seabird populations on Marion Island cannot be overstated, so we must do everything in our power to protect them. Becoming part of the IOCC will help us achieve this goal and contribute to global biodiversity objectives.”

You can find out more about the Mouse-Free Marion Project, here.

Sources: Supplied 
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Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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