03 June 2014
Australia is home to more than 560,000 native species, many found nowhere else on Earth – yet only one-quarter of this biodiversity has been scientifically documented.
This week BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities will play a part in helping document the biodiversity of one of Australia’s most striking wilderness areas, The Kimberley, through its support of the Bush Blitz program – a ground breaking species discovery partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia.
To date, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities has invested more than US$4 million in the partnership which has discovered at least 700 new species since its launch in 2010. These include 272 species of true bugs, 130 species of spiders and scorpions, 36 species of bees and 11 species of vascular plants.
The 21st Bush Blitz began on 26 May in the eastern Kimberley on the Aboriginal owned Karunjie and Durack stations. Already the participants believe they’ve discovered many new species, including new true bugs, spiders, a fish and psuedoscorpions. Traditional Owners and teachers are participating in the program, as well as a number of high profile scientists.
BHP Billiton President - HSE, Marketing and Technology, Mike Henry, said BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities’ support for the program was consistent with BHP Billiton’s focus on supporting strong partnerships.
“BHP Billiton is committed to operating sustainably, which is one of Our Charter values. The Bush Blitz program is generating long-term, positive and sustainable outcomes for Australia and our Company is proud to be a part of an initiative that is making a real difference in building deeper knowledge of Australia’s unique biodiversity,” he said.
“Supporting biodiversity is important to us – we do this at BHP Billiton mine sites through our land management practices and through our contribution to programs such as Bush Blitz which are leading to a greater understanding of the unique biodiversity values found in Australia.
“I am really excited for everyone taking part in the program, particularly the Traditional Owners and teachers who are playing a key role in the Kimberley Blitz.”
The Kimberley Bush Blitz also includes a sub project called Bush Blitz TeachLive, an interactive educational experience for science teachers and their students. Science teachers are given a unique professional development experience and are able to teach ‘live’ back to their classrooms via the Bush Blitz TeachLive website.
The Kimberley Bush Blitz focuses on participation of Traditional Owners and science teachers, however BHP Billiton environmental professionals also often participate in the programs.
BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities Director, Ian Wood, said since 2010, 43 BHP Billiton employees have participated in seven expeditions.
“BHP Billiton employees act as research assistants in the field and support scientists with trapping species, collecting plant samples and processing specimens,” he said.
“It is a highly regarded professional development opportunity for our people where they learn survey techniques on a wide variety of species and by the end of the expedition they have a broader understanding of Australia’s unique biodiversity and ecosystems.”
BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities is a charity established by BHP Billiton as part of its community investment program. Most projects supported by BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities are multi-year projects and they predominately focus on building capacity of individuals and institutions, so that after the project is completed, it will leave a lasting positive legacy.