Rio Tinto has entered a new partnership aimed at protecting India's critically endangered vulture species and maintaining the biodiversity of the Madhya Pradesh region of India, where the miner's Bunder diamond project is located. In the first partnership of its kind in the mining industry in India, Rio Tinto has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Bombay Natural History Society to support a number of wildlife management initiatives over a five-year period.
The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has a thriving population of birdlife and is a natural habitat for vultures. Together with Birdlife International and the Bombay Natural History Society, a 100 kilometre vulture "safety zone" will be established in Madhya Pradesh. The expectation is that this will protect wild vultures and in the future, vultures from captive breeding centres in India could be re-introduced into the wild. Over time this would revert back to being a self- supporting population.
Vultures are a critical part of the food chain. By removing rotten meat and bones they maintain a balanced ecosystem and prevent the unnecessary spread of disease. The dramatic decline in the Indian vulture population is directly linked to animal husbandry practices, namely the use of the pain killer, Diclofenac, to treat cattle. This pain killer poisons the vultures when they eat the carcasses of cattle. In under a decade vulture numbers in India have decreased by up to 99%, the fastest decline of any bird ever reported.
"Rio Tinto is playing a leading role in helping determine how wildlife must be protected. This partnership is a reflection of our long-term commitment to Madhya Pradesh and the way we work with the government, local partners and industry experts," says Tarun Malkani, chief operating officer of Rio Tinto Diamonds in India.