How Age of Union’s 10 Partner Projects Revolutionized Conservation in 2022
Age of Union’s ten conservation projects have accomplished a lot in just one year. Here’s a closer look at their progress, documented by Project Coordinator Mariette Raina.
In October 2021, Age of Union launched with five partnerships aimed at addressing some of the most pressing conservation challenges of our time. Fast forward one year, and we had grown to encompass ten projects around the globe, each working to protect and preserve some of the world’s most threatened species.
But how exactly do we keep track of the progress of each of these initiatives? Enter Mariette Raina. As project coordinator, she is responsible for receiving and analyzing regular updates from the field, tracking each initiative’s progress, and documenting the impact of their conservation efforts.
Through detailed and personal reports straight from the frontlines of conservation, she has captured the stories of incredible boots-on-the-ground initiatives and the people behind them, showcasing the progress made and the challenges overcome.
Read on as we delve into our detailed reports and explore the incredible achievements of Age of Union’s partner projects in 2022.
Hi, I’m Mariette! In 2022, I spent countless hours poring over 44 reports, analyzing and compiling the most impactful stories to create a comprehensive field diary for the Age of Union team. It’s a challenging but deeply rewarding task, and I’m proud to say that the reports showcase the significant progress made by our partners in the field toward protecting our ecosystems.
The data includes quantitative and qualitative measures that give us a well-rounded view of each project’s advancement, from the number of acres secured and miles walked by rangers to the number of boats arrested and species observed. But what stands out to me the most are the participant profiles, which showcase the unsung heroes behind each project’s success, and serve as a reminder that every individual has the potential to make a positive impact — regardless of background or experience.
Without further ado, here are some highlights of what we’ve achieved in 2022.
Junglekeepers – Amazon Rainforest Sanctuary
Junglekeepers has made significant strides in 2022 to expand their strategy and partnerships along the Las Piedras River in Peru, to safeguard the forest and its wildlife. With the support of Age of Union, the team spent most of the year framing a five-year project plan launched in December.
The organization was also prominently featured in Age of Union’s first exhibition, “Ignition,” which celebrated the opening of the Earth Centre. This exhibition showcased a breathtaking collection of photos and a short film that captured the mesmerizing beauty and critical importance of the rainforest. Co-Founder Dina Tsouluhas appeared at one of our Earth Centre Open Houses over the summer, where she spoke about the inspiring work of Junglekeepers toward protecting the rainforest.
The success of Junglekeepers’ ranger program, led by Tsouluhas, has been a major highlight of the project thus far. In 2022, the rangers covered a staggering distance of 31,240 km throughout the forest, protecting 50,000 acres of land. This remarkable feat is a testament to the team’s unwavering dedication and hard work.
Another noteworthy accomplishment was the hiring of three female rangers. For the organization, which had always aimed to ensure Indigenous women’s representation on its ranger team, this was a significant milestone. During their visit to the communities living in voluntary isolation upriver in Puerto Nuevo, two separate families approached the organization and expressed interest in their daughters joining the ranger team. Yadira and Kirathe were soon recruited.
Junglekeepers recognizes the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge into their work. This is particularly critical for the ranger team, as having people from the Indigenous communities who possess extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and the forest can help the team protect the river more effectively. Indigenous rangers can also speak to the importance of protecting the land for future generations.
Kalaweit – Dulan Rainforest Sanctuary
In 2022, Kalaweit achieved a major milestone in its dream to protect the Indonesian Dulan forest thanks to a collaboration with Age of Union. The partnership began with a year of joint efforts to protect 100 hectares of forest, during which Age of Union witnessed the incredible conservation work of Founder Chanee Kalaweit and his team. This led to an additional commitment to expand our support, with a pledge to protect the remaining 750 hectares of forest, along with the addition of a new plane, water tanks, and a ranger team.
Through camera traps, Kalaweit captured images of six key species, including the critically endangered orangutan, the vulnerable crested fireback pheasant, the very rare Tarsius, and the vulnerable sunbear. These sightings highlight the richness of this pocket of forest surrounded by palm oil plantations.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the collaboration has been the growing support of the Indonesian community for Kalaweit’s conservation efforts. Local villagers, including those in Butong, Buntok Baru, and Pararawen, have shown great support for the project, which has been widely accepted with no conflict on the ground. The level of local support has inspired the village administration, mayor, and villagers to prohibit hunting and logging on their land, even though their forests are not directly under Kalaweit’s protection.
“The Indonesian community supporting the project and Kalaweit, in general, is growing nationwide,” Chanee told Age of Union. “We can feel how much the project is accepted and supported, with no conflict on the ground to protect the forest. This is rare in an Indonesian context. It’s exciting to realize [that] the overall impact of the partnership may be far bigger than expected given this recent development.”
BC Parks Foundation – Land and Habitat Protection in Pitt River and French Creek
In March 2022, Age of Union and the BC Parks Foundation joined forces to protect two ecologically valuable areas threatened by urban development: the Pitt River watershed and the French Creek estuary, both in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia.
Since then, the partners have been working to establish a Baseline Census of the two projects to assess the state of the land and document the types of ecosystems in the area. This is critical to understanding the starting point and tracking changes over time. To achieve this, the BC Parks team used a crowd-sourced data collection tool called iNaturalist.
The Pitt River watershed is the most remote area of the two projects and poses a significant challenge to access and study. Nevertheless, the BC Parks team managed to perform 2,741 observations and record 412 species during the summer, a remarkable feat considering the limited documentation of the area. The observations and photos can be found on the project’s iNaturalist page.
“We are taking the first strides toward a better understanding of the area’s biodiversity and ecology,” said BC Parks Foundation Community Science Manager Tse-Lynn Loh. “The inventory survey made over the summer was also a great achievement, and we look forward to co-managing the site with Katzie First Nation. There is also potential for a salmon habitat restoration project, which may well be the largest restoration effort undertaken in Canada.”
With French Creek, Age of Union and the BC Parks Foundation highlighted the importance of community engagement in conservation efforts. The partners aligned with the BC Parks Foundation’s view that, while relying exclusively on big donors could help save time, it wouldn’t necessarily engage the community. In this case, the community received Age of Union with much care, proud of what the organization had achieved. Community empowerment is a crucial aspect of conservation strategies.
“The establishment of a nature preserve at French Creek is truly the result of a grassroots movement comprising the hard work and dedication of a consortium of community conservation groups,” reads BC Parks’ latest report. “They are the heroes of the newly established French Creek Estuary Nature Preserve.”
Nature Seekers – Species Protection
In May 2022, the Age of Union team visited a conservation project that would soon become a long-term partner. Two months later, we were proud to announce our 5-year commitment to Nature Seekers, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting the endangered leatherback turtle in Matura Beach, Trinidad.
In the fall-winter exhibition “Mega Fauna” at the Earth Centre, Patrick Galois, a specialist in leatherback turtles, spoke about the Jurassic species and how they travel between Matura beach in Trinidad and the Canadian St. Lawrence River. Age of Union’s quick partnership with Nature Seekers allowed for ten patrols a day, with 14 rangers accumulating 4,752 patrol hours during the 2022 nesting season. The Matura beach is one of the last strongholds for the species in the world and can host over 200 turtles per night.
Suzanne Lakan Baptiste, who has been running Nature Seekers for 35 years, is a true legend. Her work has shown that to protect endangered species and their habitats, one must also engage with the community. Addressing one can lead to a change in the other, and it’s a lesson we can all learn from.
“The greatest success within the project this year was sharing the news with the team that Age of Union would be supporting turtle conservation and related activities for five years,” Lakhan Baptiste said. “The social media buzz that followed placed a spotlight on turtle conservation and the work being done, and that remains to be done.”
Forest Health Alliance – Wildlife Corridor
In 2022, Age of Union continued strengthening its partnership with Forest Health Alliance, which began in 2021. Our team, led by Dax and a filming crew, visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to capture the incredible work being done by Founder and Executive Director Dominique Bikaba and his team to protect the corridor and work with the local communities that depend on it. The result is a breathtaking film, set to be released later this year, showcasing the area’s beauty and the importance of conservation efforts led by the team.
Forest Health Alliance achieved a noteworthy milestone by delivering historical land titles to various communities in the region. This was a significant win in protecting the communities from being displaced from their homeland while preserving the forest and the corridor.
“The corridor has been mapped, and legal land titles have started to be delivered to protect both the forest and the communities living in [it]. This achievement is a testament to the tireless efforts of [President and Founder] Kerry Bowman and Dominique Bikaba over the years.” Corridor Project Coordinator Matt Brunette said. “The communities are fully on board, and the corridor is now closer than ever to being fully protected at both the nature and human levels. Given the history of colonialism and displacement in the region, this is a huge step forward in terms of peace-building and repairing relationships between the national conservation authority and local communities.”
Forest Health Alliance was also featured in the 2022 Fall-Winter Exhibition, “Mega Fauna,” at the Earth Centre.
Saint Lawrence River – River and Habitat Restoration
In 2022, our conservation and restoration project with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, continued to make progress towards protecting more land in 2023. Our collaboration with Indigenous communities was a crucial aspect of this effort, as we worked with the Waban-aki First Nation on an archeological survey and study on a 3,000-hectare area protected by NCC, 200 km away from the river. This partnership illustrated the significant reach of Indigenous communities on the land and highlighted the valuable insights we could gain from working hand-in-hand.
As NCC Quebec Associate Vice-President Joël Bonin noted, “First Nations’ cultural values and archeological artifacts on-site enhance the significance of an area for conservation and give more chance for this location to become protected. It inspires deeper respect.”
During the year, our founder Dax Dasilva attended the restoration project highlight, the Barachois, and NCC was also part of the first series of exhibitions, “Ignition,” at the Earth Centre. We were thrilled to welcome the NCC team to the Earth Centre and to host Project Manager Annie Ferland, who spoke during an Open House about the turtle program she is leading on the west side of the island of Montreal.
“Habitat improvements for map turtles on the western end of the island of Montreal are the most promising effort to maintain this species in the area,” Bonin explained. “A number of nesting grounds are associated with green spaces, such as urban parks or marinas, which are not safe from disturbances and present a risk for road mortalities.” Our work with NCC and the Indigenous communities on this project continues to make strides toward protecting the natural habitats and cultural values of the St. Lawrence River and its surrounding areas.
Kenauk – The World’s Largest Temperate Forest
In 2022, Age of Union made a donation to the Kenauk Institute to support the protection and study of the world’s largest temperate forest, which includes the 265 sq km of old-growth forests and wetlands located between Montreal and Ottawa in Quebec, Canada. The Institute is dedicated to research and education, and the donation will contribute to the construction of the Research Pavillon project, which is set to start in 2023. This will help create the largest temperate research forest in the world.
Rebecca Foon’s “Lightboxes” series artistically documented Kenauk as part of the Earth Center winter exhibition series, and the Kenauk Institute hosted a total of 14 research projects with universities, as well as five educational programs in 2022. These programs included the internship program, junior internship program, camp Kenauk, the grade 7 program from Bishops College School (BCS), and the WILD Outside program from the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
“We are very happy with the number of research projects and collaborations we hosted this year,” said Kenauk Institute Executive Director Liane Nowell. “It was more than we expected!”
KANPE – Reforestation and Agroforestry Program
Age of Union has been supporting KANPE, one of its oldest projects, which contributes to the health of the environment and empowering people who depend on it through its agroforestry program in the community of Baille Tourible, Haiti.
In 2022, KANPE exceeded its goal of producing 25,000 seedlings per year, growing a total of 29,557 seedlings — including 4,790 forest trees and 24,767 fruit trees. Local organizations and students were deeply involved in producing seedlings, and 456 families in Baille Tourible received seedlings to plant on their land. In addition, KANPE implemented 26 coffee and cocoa mini-orchards and 14 fruit and forest mini-orchards, which was a significant challenge considering Baille Tourible’s low vegetation cover.
“The results of the seedling project exceeded our expectations,” the organization said in its latest report. “The diversity of fruit seedlings produced is a great success.”
KANPE places great value on community involvement at the start of every project. Through the agroforestry initiative, communities understand the long-term nature of reforestation. Unfortunately, trees are often cut down and converted to coal, a significant income source for certain families in Baille Tourible. To reduce tree cutting, it is essential to diversify the income streams of these families. KANPE is raising awareness of the destructive effects of deforestation and providing training sessions to enable people to access alternative sources of income and combat deforestation more effectively.
Sea Shepherd Global – Protecting Marine Ecosystems and Wildlife
In January 2022, Age of Union and Sea Shepherd Global embarked on a joint mission to protect marine life in French waters. The Age of Union team travelled to La Rochelle to join the M/Y Age of Union vessel for an awareness campaign in the Bay of Biscay, where they filmed the eye-opening documentary CAUGHT, exposing the issue of dolphin bycatch along the French coasts.
A few months later, the M/Y Age of Union patrolled Benin, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to further their conservation efforts in African waters. Throughout 2022, the M/Y Age of Union spent a remarkable 138 active days at sea, patrolling over 18,436 nautical miles.
Their efforts have yielded impressive results. The total number of sea creatures saved from lack of activity from 70 ships is estimated to be upwards of 42 million, far exceeding expectations. “This was a result beyond imagination in terms of lives spared and exceeds anything we could have foreseen,” the organization reported.
In particular, the organization’s success in arresting the F/V Margiris in France and the Kanbal III in Liberian waters has had a significant impact on bycatch numbers and local fishery health. These massive super trawlers were responsible for a large portion of the issue, and their apprehension has made a significant difference.
Both Age of Union and Sea Shepherd Global recognize that ongoing patrols are crucial to deterrence and protecting the world’s oceans. While the initial steps have been taken, there is a continued commitment to ensuring the safety and health of marine wildlife and their habitats. The organization emphasizes the importance of strong laws and regulations in this process, as arrests can serve as case studies to identify areas for improvement and legal loopholes that need to be closed. As Sea Shepherd Global Development Manager Victoria Ramm said, “This, of course, takes time.”
Click here to learn more about the M/Y Age of Union’s first year at sea.
As I reflect on our partners’ reports from the past year, I’ve realized a crucial lesson: environmental protection must move beyond the focus on isolated pockets of vegetation and wildlife because our current era demands a holistic approach that bridges the gap between nature and humanity. The fight for resilience in how we coexist with nature requires diverse solutions tailored to each location’s unique cultural and national realities.
Our partners are courageously addressing these challenges and devising on-the-ground strategies that account for the human element of environmental protection. We are proud to support their efforts, which reflect our shared belief that we must find ways to balance nature and human needs.
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