Queensland, Australia, announced on Wednesday that it has given back the ownership of the Daintree rainforest to its Indigenous caretakers, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.
The forest is thought to be the world’s oldest jungle, and has been growing for at least 10 million years. ‘The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people’s culture is one of the world’s oldest living cultures and agreement recognizes their right to own and manage their country, to protect their culture, and to share it with visitors as they become leaders in the tourism industry,’ said Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon. There will be a joint period of management before the full handover, she said.
A representative of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji, Chrissy Grant, said negotiations for the deal had lasted for almost four years.
In the northeastern part of the country are 160,000 hectares (395,000 acres) of land, which are being endangered by climate change and water logging, even though they are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1980s.
The Daintree National Park is the first of four national parks to be handed back to indigenous hands in accordance with a deal with the Queensland government signed on Wednesday. Other parts of Australia have already made such agreements. Since 1985, the world-famous Uluru national park in Australia’s Northern Territory has been under the ownership of the Pitjantjatjara people.