A year to remember: 40th anniversary highlights

40 is a number of spiritual importance throughout the Bible, associated with periods of testing, preparation, transition and renewal. As A Rocha’s 40th anniversary year comes to a close, we cannot help but reflect on the significance of this milestone and appreciate the foundation on which we now firmly find ourselves. Thank you to all of those that have faithfully walked with us this last year. Perhaps you are new to A Rocha, or perhaps you have been with us since the beginning. In either case, you have a place at the table and we’re grateful you’re here.

From home gatherings with new supporters in Singapore and Texas to anniversary parties with old friends at Cruzinha – it has been a whirlwind of a year, in the best possible way! In case you missed it, we wanted to share some of the highlights of our 40th year and ways you can still join us in this joyous and commemorative time. See some of the highlights from our 40th anniversary below:

  • Virtual 40th Anniversary Celebration – watch edited highlights of this special event.
  • Podcast interview, ‘Milestones, Miracles, and Migration’ with cofounder Peter is available here or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
  • Special 40th Anniversary edition of our Field notes. Get your digital copy.
  • A Rocha International appointed a new Executive Director, Ed Walker. Meet Ed.
  • We celebrated 250,000 birds ringed this year and ten years of the Marine Conservation Programme!
  • Jo Swinney and Miranda Harris’ book, A Place at the Table, won the prestigious international Nautilus Book Award.
  • We released five new videos and discussion guides in A Rocha’s Elements of Hope video series. Watch or download the videos and guides on our Vimeo channel.

Last, but not least – our ‘40 for the Future’ anniversary campaign continues through to the end of the year, with a special match gift opportunity to double your impact with the Big Give Christmas Challenge! Donate between 28 November and 5 December to double your impact. Learn more here. Thank you for helping us make this a year to remember.

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In support of salmon

The Tatalu (Little Campbell) River – which runs through A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre in BC – is home to five species of Pacific Salmon, including the Chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and Coho Salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch. Boundary Bay Chinook Salmon, which include the Chinook that spawn in the Tatalu, are classified as threatened.

Chinook Salmon populations have declined in recent decades for a variety of reasons, including their susceptibility to drought and extreme warm temperatures. Coho Salmon also have their issues, witnessed in the Tatalu River. Every summer the river stops flowing in its middle reaches, becoming a string of isolated pools which gradually dry out entirely. This dry reach persists for around four months out of the year, even while the river is flowing both up and down-stream of it. It has profound implications for the surrounding wildlife, including thousands of Coho Salmon fry stranded in the pools. In autumn, the dry reach is an impassable barrier to spawning salmon, cutting them off from the upper half of the river. They must wait until the river reconnects, which can happen as late as November.

Since 2018, Brooksdale’s conservation science team has been walking the riverbed annually to record the timing and extent of the dry reach, and has been part of salmon fry rescue operations. They are also restoring important streamside vegetation that helps shade the river and keep it cool for the juvenile salmon. The vegetation also prevents erosion, which helps the river stay clear of fine sediment, which degrades spawning habitat.

And it’s making a difference! The team’s data and experience are helping raise awareness among community members and local governments to encourage protection of the river and remaining wetlands. Read more directly from the conservation science team.

Coral reef by Bob Sluka

Researching climate resilience in coral reefs

Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) is one of the oldest no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the world, established in 1968. Since then, the park has been protected against human threats like fishing and unsustainable coastal development. However, the coral reefs in the park still face the threat of increasing thermal stress and coral bleaching.

Our Marine team, led by Peter Musila and joined by Dr Benjamin Cowburn, who helped initiate the Marine programme at A Rocha Kenya, diligently took up the regular coral monitoring activity during October. Every six months since 2020, the team revisits over 600 tagged corals in 70 permanent plots to see how the corals are growing and assess if there are bleaching resistant colonies and if baby corals (recruits) have settled in the plots. Our Marine team is concerned about coral bleaching with the predicted El-Nino marine heatwave, due to arrive in April next year. Plot monitoring will increase to monthly through the warm water season, to closely monitor any bleaching and mortality that occurs. The corals experienced bleaching in 2020 but many survived. If we can identify colonies that are resistant again in 2024, these will make good candidates for coral gardening and reef restoration, currently being planned and approved by Kenya Wildlife Service.

Why protect the corals? Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate there may be millions of undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs. This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. We also believe that coral reefs have value independent of any use to humans and should be protected regardless, as creatures loved by God.

Monitoring efforts in 2024 will require extra funding and volunteers to help. You can support this work by giving a coral care package to help monitor reefs in Watamu Marine National Park through Gifts with a Difference. Or come and volunteer with the coral survey! If you have any unwanted snorkel or scuba kit, we would be happy to put it to good use – email [email protected] to arrange transfer of kit to Kenya.

This picture taken three years ago of a coral in a devastating stage is now considered to be in good condition.

There is indeed great hope for the corals to survive. Let’s join hands and protect our corals.

Big Give 40ftf banner

The Big Give is back


We’re thrilled to announce an amazing opportunity. The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2023 is coming soon and A Rocha International will be taking part again! This means that from noon (GMT) on #GivingTuesday 28 November until noon on 5 December any donation you make through our campaign page on the Christmas Challenge website* will be DOUBLED (while match funds last). Whether you care about engaging Christians in creation care, conserving wildlife and their habitats, environmental education and community development, or advocating for women empowerment or the voiceless, there is a story here for you at A Rocha.

This year marks the 40th year of A Rocha since our founding in Portugal in 1983. And what a year it has been! We’ve seen major milestones, like ringing 250,000 birds, conserving 1.26 million hectares of vulnerable landscapes and habitat, engaging over 43,000 people in our environmental education programmes, as well as launching our 40 for the Future campaign.

The 40 for the Future campaign celebrates our legacy of 40 years of conservation work, while also building on our hope for the future for conservation through five key categories: Faith & Creation Care, Biodiversity Conservation, Community Engagement & Education, Advocacy & Restoration, and Growth Opportunities (including our expanding ‘Friends of A Rocha’ network).

We are delighted to share that we are just over the halfway mark to our goal for the 40 for the Future campaign – lighting 22 of 40 candles on our birthday cake! As the title of the campaign suggests, we’ve set our aim to raise 40 gifts of US$40,000 to build towards the future we all envision – a world where nature flourishes as people live equitably and sustainably.

Thank you for those that have already given in support of our 40th campaign. We could not do this work without you. Please consider sharing this opportunity with your family and friends. And if you have not supported yet this year, would you join us this advent season for a final, end of year gift and help us light another candle? Donate to the Big Give between 28 November and 5 December for a chance to double your gift and end the year with a meaningful impact towards A Rocha’s global conservation work. Thank you for helping us make a difference.

* Please note that only donations made through our campaign page on the Christmas Challenge website between 28 November and 5 December are eligible to be doubled.


Blue: How can nature impact my mental health?

The fifth instalment of A Rocha’s Elements of Hope video series, titled Blue, delves into the relationship between mental health challenges and the positive effects of nature on our wellbeing. We investigate how immersing ourselves in nature can pull us out of our internal struggles and rekindle our connection to God and his call for us to be stewards of creation. In this video, A Rocha interns Michaela Stenerson and Allison Cutting share their experiences of finding relief from anxiety and depression through their proximity to the ocean. 

We’ll also hear from Murray Tessendorf, the National Director of A Rocha South Africa, as he shares how his experiences as a crisis chaplain have motivated him to practice proactive self-care in dealing with depression and anxiety. This includes activities like taking daily walks in nature and engaging in other practices to help redefine our sense of purpose and connection with our Creator. 
Learn more about how nature can improve our mental health with our study guide. Feel free to share the study guide and film with your church, school, bible study or youth group.


Cross-border connections at Courmettes

In early September, 19 individuals from Friends of A Rocha Germany engaged an exchange week with French A Rocha enthusiasts at Les Courmettes, A Rocha France’s field study centre near Nice. The agenda: to learn from A Rocha’s experiences in France and share initial project ideas. The week was partly funded by the French-German Citizens’ Fund, supporting projects enhancing Franco-German fellowship.

Meeting for the first time, the two groups soon felt as one community. What brought us together?

First, the joint learning experience. Morning sessions were for discussing projects and sharing practical creation care insights. Nature outings, especially a joint hike, deepened our connection. Butterflies, birds, stags and deer, sunrise, breathtaking views – we were in awe together. Field visits to dry meadows and the vegetable garden, with a focus on water conservation, were enlightening.

We reflected together on the ecological crises and the emotions they provoke in us. We thought about appropriate reactions, within ourselves and towards others. Entertainment, such as quiz and talent nights, added a fun element. The joyful evening of folk dancing was definitely a highlight of the week. 
Communication, albeit initially challenging due to language barriers, turned into an amusing experience. English – with hand gesturesbecame our bridge. The heart of fellowship was felt during mealtimes. Sharing delicious, healthy meals, complimented by the hospitality shown through German dishes prepared by the French kitchen, was precious for personal interactions and language learning. 
The week concluded with a rewarding clean up activity with the local municipality, sweetened by regional violet syrup and quiche. This poignant ending left us encouraged and thankful as we embarked on our return journeys, enriched by an inspiring week of Franco-German exchange and ecological engagement. 

Celebrating A Rocha’s 40th anniversary

Thanks to the wonders of Zoom, on 14 September over 400 of us gathered from 26 countries, spanning the globe from New Zealand to Nigeria, Singapore to Sweden, Algeria to Korea and many places in between. Some of us were new to A Rocha; over 80 had been involved for over two decades, a significant number since the very beginning. We’d encountered A Rocha through friends, books, churches and conferences, through holidays near A Rocha centres, through universities and colleges and in the case of one person, because of a bumper sticker!   

Over the hour-long event, we heard from Peter Harris about A Rocha’s beginnings, remembered those we have lost along the way and celebrated all manner of highlights, from work with the Atewa Slippery Frog to the burgeoning network of A Rocha Friends groups and a recent environmental education conference. 

When our host, Graham Wright, asked people to share a species with which they have worked at A Rocha or particularly love, answers poured in. The European Roller in the Vallée des Baux, France; Western Toad (and the toadlets) in BC, Canada; Long-eared Owl, ringed at Minet Country Park, UK; the Algarrobo tree in the dry forests of Peru; the Halavi Guitarfish in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya; the Otter at Aammiq, Lebanon. A Rocha has always drawn people with big hearts for ‘all creatures great and small’.  

You can watch edited highlights of this special event here. 


A fruitful forest encounter

A Rocha Kenya has been working to create a nature reserve to protect what remains of the coastal forest of Dakatcha. Home to 13 IUCN Red Listed species, this habitat has been stripped for charcoal, planted with pineapples and heavily grazed by cattle, camels, goats and sheep. The forest is recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area and yet remains one of the ten most threatened forest hotspots in the world. 

On a recent Habitat Assessment exercise, an A Rocha volunteer named Eric Kinoti, along with a reserve scout from a local community, came across a group of Somali herders who asked why grazing was not allowed in the reserve. Eric recounts what happened next:  

‘We took the initiative to show them how God has given the responsibility to humans to care for the earth, and why it’s everyone’s responsibility no matter the religion. We also showed them pictures of birds in Dakatcha. They recognized some and even taught us some of the birds’ names in the Somali language. In the end they were happy and quite satisfied and vowed to spread the word to their fellow herdsmen. It’s amazing to see the great work our scouts do. Despite the language barrier between them and the herders, they eventually sing the same tune, of conservation and hope.’  

Read more about A Rocha’s vital work in the Dakatcha Nature Reserve here. 


Fundraising heroes

Creation care can take many forms, including raising money to support the work of organizations like A Rocha. Everyone can be a fundraiser – you don’t have to be an athlete or take on an epic adventure, though sometimes it can help! Here we meet just a few of the heroes who are helping to protect people and the planet through their fundraising efforts: 

Angaza Taa is a social enterprise founded by Allison Karabu to fund sustainable development projects through the sale of tote bags. Allison developed the concept of Angaza Taa in Grade 11, wanting to use her artistic skills and experience in development – grounded in her Christian faith and values – to support communities and showcase the organizations and initiatives making a difference. Angaza Taa donates 30% of the profits from each tote design to a selected project or organization. Now people can support A Rocha Uganda’s conservation efforts in West Bugwe Forest, by purchasing a Flutter Butterfly tote! 

The fifth Sokoke Forest MTB Challenge bike race took place in Kenya on 21 May. Its aim was to raise awareness about the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and its conservation as well as raise funds for A Rocha Kenya’s ASSETS programme. 100% of the proceeds (race sponsorship, contributions from the riders and registration fees) went to supporting the secondary school fees of children living around the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and practical conservation action through the work of ASSETS. Over 70 hero cyclists took part and helped raise over KSh 500,000, which will cover the secondary school fees of 13 children! 

When Russell and Sarah Hager got married earlier this year, they wanted their wedding gifts to make a difference to communities and nature around the world. So, as well as asking for contributions to their carbon-friendly honeymoon, they asked their guests to purchase a Gift with a Difference on their behalf. Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, they were delighted that their wedding could contribute to nature-based livelihoods for Syrian refugees, monitoring coral reefs, planting tree saplings in India, training communities in Uganda to make sack gardens and more! 


International Annual Review 2022-2023

Our latest annual review is available for your reading pleasure! We hope you will enjoy an overview of the many places, species and people impacted by A Rocha’s work around the world between April 2022 and March 2023. And thank you for all you do to make this possible.