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Papua New Guinea is home to one of the largest expanses of rainforest on the planet. Parts of the interior are impenetrable to this day.

Many of the Paupan people rely entirely on their relationship to this ecological diversity in order to survive. It's a legacy that dates back hundreds of years.

Today, though, the traditional Paupan way of life is under threat by the continued exploitation of their land. Industrial-scale logging extracts 290,000 acres of old-growth forest each year. In 2004 alone, logging companies exported an estimated $120 million of timber.

Little of this money is ever seen by the people.

With the loss of trees comes the inevitable destruction of their food chain. People who have relied on the land for centuries no longer have access to their own soil or to the animals they require for sustenance.

As photographer Brent Stirton explains, the culture is at a turning point. What makes the place unique can be saved, but it could just as easily simply disappear.

Client: Discovery
Published: May 4, 2010

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