Rescuing endangered seabirds: world’s biggest single operation to remove mice from island

Patrick Barkham

Non-native house mice are to be removed from Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean to protect the wandering albatross and other endangered seabirds, in the world’s largest eradication programme of its kind.

Mice accidentally introduced on to the remote island by 19th-century seal hunters have thrived in warmer and drier conditions over the past 30 years, devastating the island’s invertebrates and plants, and then devouring the chicks and even adults of ground- and burrow-nesting seabirds.

The Marion Islands are home to a quarter of the world’s wandering albatross population. Photograph: Otto Whitehead/Marion Island

Marion Island, an uninhabited sub-Antarctic island ravaged by wind 1,370 miles (2,200km) of Cape Town, hosts millions of breeding seabirds, including four species of penguin and a quarter of the world’s wandering albatrosses. Without action against the mice, the albatross is predicted to become extinct on the island, along with 18 of the 28 seabird species currently breeding there.

“The need is urgent and clear for Marion Island’s globally important seabirds which include the iconic wandering albatross, other albatrosses, petrels and prions,” said Keith Springer, the operations manager for the Mouse-Free Marion project….