Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Macquarie Island stalwart Keith Springer appointed Mouse-Free Marion’s Operations Manager

Keith Springer Antipodean Albatross chick

Moving to safety from a landing helicopter.  Keith Springer cradles an Antipodean Albatross chick on Antipodes Island

Following the interviewing of shortlisted candidates last month for the position of Operations Manager, the Mouse-Free Marion Project is pleased to announce that Mr Keith Springer of New Zealand has been offered and has accepted the post to rid South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island of its predatory House Mice that have taken to attacking and killing surface-breeding albatrosses.

With a career that had its early days with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, Antarctica New Zealand and the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Keith has considerable experience in island rodent eradication operations and is one of the world leaders in the field.  He led the successful (and award-winning) operation to eradicate European Rabbits, Black Rats and House Mice from Australia’s Macquarie Island, was part of the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s Habitat Restoration Project team that successfully eradicated Brown Rats and House Mice from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* and has served as an advisor on many other rodent-eradication projects.  These have included being Operational Advisor and Safety Officer to the successful “Million Dollar Mouse” eradication on Antipodes Island and Operations Planner for the Gough Island Restoration Programme that aims to eradicate that island’s mice from June to September this year.  He was also responsible for the development of draft Operational and Project Plans for the Mouse-Free Marion Project on behalf of the environmental NGO BirdLife South Africa, having visited the island for this purpose in 2018.

Keith writes to ACAP Latest News: “What motivates me to be involved in island pest eradication projects is the chance to contribute to shifting the ecological balance back to species native to the island.  Seabirds are a particular beneficiary of predator removal, and they face so many issues off-island that they really do not need the added pressure of being “chomped on” when back on home turf.  But vegetation, soil and invertebrates also improve with invasive predators removed, so there is no doubt that it is a whole-of-ecosystem response when predators are removed.  My core motivation therefore is to plan operations to enhance the likelihood of a successful eradication outcome.”  He also notes that albatrosses, including those at risk to Gough and Marion’s mice “already face so many threats at sea.  On some of the islands they breed on, they face existential threats from introduced predators as well, so the populations are getting squeezed from both land and sea.  Without actions to reduce fishing mortality and introduced predators on their breeding islands, we face the sad but very real possibility of a world without albatrosses.”

Keith is due to start with MFM in July, although for the first month he will also be involved with follow-up work on Australia’s Lord Howe Island where the Rodent Eradication Project  was carried out in 2019.  He will be based in New Zealand with regular trips to South Africa, and to Marion Island as well.

 ACAP’s Information Officer first met Keith Springer in the ACAP Secretariat offices in Hobart, Tasmania when he was in the early stages of executing the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) for the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.  Their conversation included the issue of mice on Marion – some years before the first reports of attacks on albatrosses.  Subsequently, regular posts to ACAP Latest News allowed readers to follow the fortunes of the Macquarie Island eradication effort to its ultimate success. Now, quite some years later, Keith will be bringing the knowledge and skills he learnt on “Macca” and honed elsewhere to rid Marion of its “killer” mice.

A number of applications has been received for the position of MFM Communications Manager. These have been assessed, and interviews will be arranged once the Project Manager returns from Gough Island later this month.

With thanks to Keith Springer and Anton Wolfaardt, Project Manager, Mouse-Free Marion Project.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 June 2021

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.