Australia has declared nearly 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of the southern Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory -- home to some of the country's most endangered species -- a conservation zone.
The Portugal-sized region is the largest conservation zone ever designated in Australia and will be administered as an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) under the supervision of indigenous rangers.
Over the next two years, the Australian government will spend $1.6 million to fund the rangers, while the international conservation organization the Nature Conservancy will also contribute $500,000 to help manage the area.
Endangered species like the bilby, a marsupial commonly referred to as the rabbit-eared bandicoot for its long ears, and the great desert skink, a burrowing lizard that works cooperatively with others of its kind to build elaborate tunnel systems, have been threatened by the encroachment of feral cats and foxes, as well as increasingly-occurring brush-fires and cattle grazing.
The conservation zone is viewed as a boon for the local wildlife as well as Australia's Aboriginal Warlpiri people, who are native to the region and will have more authority over how the land is used and allow them to carry on their cultural traditions.