5 Nov 2014

Local benefits for wildlife through BirdLife-CEMEX global partnership

A pair of Golden Eagles spotted flying above CEMEX's Cerrito Blanco quarry in Mexico - their national population is poorly known. Photo: Pronatura
By Shaun Hurrell

Recognising the positive role that leading businesses can play in nature conservation, CEMEX (a global building materials company) and BirdLife embarked on a 10-year partnership in 2007.

With Golden Eagle surveying in Mexico, plans to protect dry forest in the Dominican Republic, Red-billed Chough nesting in a UK quarry, and the renewal of the national partnership in France; this update gives some examples from the CEMEX-BirdLife global partnership this year where the process of undertaking a Biodiversity Action Plan at a site is proving to be good for nature as well as business.

CEMEX project helps further scientific knowledge of Golden Eagle

In the Western Sonoran Desert, north-west Mexico, biodiversity surveys have taken place around a CEMEX quarry. As part of the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for the Cerrito Blanco quarry, CEMEX Mexico partnered with Pronatura (BirdLife in Mexico) to gather information on the diversity and abundance of wildlife in the area. These ‘biodiversity baselines’ are a major part of the BAP and are important for assessing impacts on an area, setting realistic targets and prioritising how best to improve the status of key species. As part of the BAP, Pronatura studied the abundance and distribution of Golden Eagles in Mexico, but this process unearthed important information for the team: despite being the National Bird of Mexico, Golden Eagle’s population is poorly understood nationally, let alone in the area around the quarry.

So, Pronatura set up a workshop at the Mazatlan Bird Festival to investigate and establish a baseline for Golden Eagles in Mexico; however the workshop also identified a need to increase this knowledge. This has been a positive development for the Mexican national parks authority, providing an impetus for them to get a better understanding of Golden Eagle numbers in Mexico, including working with the CEMEX-Pronatura partnership to collect. A next phase of the BAP will be to enhance Golden Eagle habitat around the quarry – Sonora Desert grassland – and fit radio-trackers on juveniles to better understand their dispersal.

Rhinocerous Iguana conservation near CEMEX quarry in Dominican Republic

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Grupo Jaragua and CEMEX discovering a</br>Rhinoceros Iguana den on the project site</br>Photo: Grupo JaraguaThe CEMEX-BirdLife Partnership includes, but importantly goes beyond, conservation activities traditionally associated with quarrying such as rehabilitation. As such, the Las Salinas quarry BAP developed through CEMEX Dominicana’s partnership with Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the Dominican Republic) is making significant progress: extensive field surveys revealed threatened reptiles and 67 new records of plant species for the area, including the endemic, threatened Guaiac Tree Guaiacum officinale. These surveys provided a rich illustration of the area’s biodiversity, identifying priority species and habitats for action in 2015.

One of the key aims of the BAP is to save threatened Rhinoceros Iguana Cyclura cornata populations, whose dens are found within the project area but away from the active quarry. A key threat that these horned iguanas face is loss of their dry forest habitat, mainly due to illegal charcoal production. This BAP provides the opportunity to protect the iguanas by halting the loss of habitat found within the project area, with the help of Grupo Jaragua’s reptile experts. Through the BAP, CEMEX have also engaged with many local communities and organisations, in order to understand their interest in the company, the project and their capacity to participate in conservation activities.

Choughs nest in CEMEX quarry

The above BAP projects have focused on conservation of IBAs that are associated with CEMEX sites, but in some cases CEMEX quarries themselves can provide great homes for wildlife too during operations. At Raynes quarry in Wales, UK, CEMEX are protecting Red-billed Choughs that are breeding on-site and are engaging with the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) to create new feeding habitat for these birds.

Red-billed Chough are nesting in</br>CEMEX's Raynes quarry, UK.</br>Photo: RSPB Images

Chough like to nest in crevices in rock, and the Raynes quarry walls provide a great alternative to the nearby sea cliffs. The rarest members of the crow family in the UK, Red-billed Chough have a history of persecution in the UK – egg-theft still occurs – and now their range is entirely restricted to the West coast of the UK. Nesting sites are therefore vitally important to protect.

Working with a chough expert from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) with 20 years of experience, Adrienne Stratford, to care for the birds CEMEX are also planning to restore short species-rich grassland – feeding grounds favoured by choughs – as part of the BAP.

Diving and swooping above the quarry, CEMEX employees are able to see the birds’ mastery of aerial acrobatics. Employee engagement with the Raynes BAP has increased this year: working with the RSPB, CEMEX staff have been involved in monitoring the nature at the site. This includes surveys and plans for habitat creation for the rare Silver-studded Blue butterfly, another target species for the BAP, whose range in Wales is mostly limited to the northern fringe of the country where the quarry is located.

Longest national CEMEX-BirdLife partnership is renewed

This year, CEMEX and BirdLife released a joint statement wholeheartedly supporting the European Union’s Nature Conservation Policy – highlighting that the partnership is good for both the planet and for business. The benefits for both are also fresh in the minds of CEMEX France and LPO (BirdLife in France), who recently renewed their national alliance – the twelfth year of continuous collaboration. This renewal clearly indicates the value of partnering with BirdLife Partners in the long-term.

More information on the CEMEX-BirdLife partnership