The new YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea will remain under village ownership. Local communities have said they will prohibit hunting, mining, and logging.
Keeping the forest intact is likely to prevent an estimated 13 million tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. By breathing in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, trees serve as carbon storage and help to mitigate climate change.
"The fact that we can protect this giant forest in [Papua] New Guinea and have an impact on climate change [shows how], as our lives become more global, we're seeing more and more how we connect," Woodland Park Zoo Field Conservation Director Lisa Dabek told National Geographic News.
"The more I work with the people of YUS, [I realize] they have the same concerns as we do about education, health care, and having the responsibility of looking after their forests," added Dabek, who is also a National Geographic Society/Waitt Family Foundation
grantee. "It's just on a different scale."
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Photograph by Toby Ross/Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program