Conservationists have their eyes on a demographic that hasn’t been tapped into before in terms of educating people about British Columbia’s old growth forests.

About half a million people in B.C.’s Lower Mainland are Chinese-language speakers, yet most environmental programs and tours are offered in English only, said Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance.

The group

is partnering with the Stanley Park Ecology Society and Hua Foundation to train volunteers to give tours of Stanley Park in Mandarin and Cantonese.

“The goal here will be to increase the level of conservation awareness,” Wu said.

Old growth forests that exist in Stanley Park and other areas across the province are vital to the broader ecosystem and climate, Wu said.

There has been a growing movement in recent years as diverse groups including businesses and municipalities push for the protection of these areas from logging and development.

But the movement to preserve these forests hadn’t made a concerted effort until now to include the local Chinese-speaking population, Wu said.

“One of the most important ways we can protect old growth forests is to engage a massive part of the population which we haven’t engaged in the past.”

Wu led about a dozen volunteers through Stanley Park on Saturday to train them on becoming ecological tour guides.

The first training day was conducted in English to cover the basics, but subsequent trainings will incorporate more language translation.

The tour will not be a verbatim translation of existing English-language forest tours in Stanley Park, but will incorporate expert and crowd-sourced translation.

“It’s important for us to be able to fill in the knowledge gaps that are often lost in translation,” said Kevin Huang, who works with the Hua Foundation.

Getting experts and the general public to weigh in on terms that refer to conservationism, the environment and specific species of animals and plant life will help create a more engaging tour that uses common Chinese terms.

“We really try to engage audiences and empower them from their own community angle instead of using straight translations,” Huang said.

The tour is designed for all ages but volunteers said they see the greatest potential in connecting with adults and seniors who didn’t grow up in a culture of environmentalism.

Volunteer Joy Peng said she hopes she can encourage Vancouver’s large Mandarin-speaking population to take an interest in protecting forests for future generations.

“It would be really great to inspire them because all together, everyone could make a big difference in preserving old growth trees and nature in general,” she said.

Organizers expect Chinese-language tours to begin before the end of the year and will run by donation.