Jim and Jean Thomas, an Australian couple living in one of the most remote areas of Papua New Guinea, run a small non-government organisation called the Tenkile Conservation Alliance. Independent filmmaker Mark Hanlin has been documenting the Thomas’s operation in PNG and has produced a short film encapsulating their story.

Jean and Jim Thomas. Photo: Tenkile Conservation Alliance

An amazing triumph in relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea is happening right now.

Jim and Jean Thomas, an Australian couple living in one of the most remote areas of Papua New Guinea, run a small non-government organisation called the Tenkile Conservation Alliance. Based in Lumi in Sandaun Province, they have been working there for more than ten years to prevent the extinction of the Tenkile, a tree kangaroo native only to a small area within the Torricelli Mountain Ranges.

As part of their work to save this rare animal, they have assisted many villagers to learn about their environment and, with the help of international aid agencies, have revolutionised their water and sanitation systems. The basic services Jim and Jean have provided have had a huge impact on the health and welfare of more than ten thousand people. Their work has attracted the attention of the Papua New Guinea Government, which is interested in TCA providing much-needed services to another 30,000 people living in similarly remote areas. However, programs to assist these remote villages are not yet funded. Because TCA is small, it is often overlooked by foreign aid institutions. Jim and Jean need consistent support to achieve their goals.

Having successfully stopped the numbers of Tenkile dwindling, Jim and Jean are seeking more permanent protection of the forests. As the population in the mountains increases, traditional ways of life are becoming less viable. Old farming practices threaten the forests, as does illegal logging. The future of both the environment and the people is at a dangerous crossroads. The villagers must face some tough decisions. With the continued support of education services, it is hoped that communities can work towards keeping their land and their forests yet move into the 21st century and embrace a new way of life. A life that they ultimately decide on.

Independent filmmaker Mark Hanlin has been documenting the Thomas’s operation in PNG and has produced a short film encapsulating their story. However, there’s so much more to this fascinating story and Mark wants to make an international feature film not only to increase worldwide awareness of what Jim and Jean are doing, but also provide insight into Papua New Guineans and their country in a way that is rarely seen in mainstream media.

In recognition of their hard work and commitment to the environment, Jim and Jean won Australian Geographic’s Conservationists of the year in 2013. More exposure to their work will help them attract the funding they deserve.

Not many good news stories come out of Papua New Guinea. Raising as little as $90,000 will help bring this story to the world. Watch the short film and for more information go to:

intothejungle.org

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Mark Hanlin - Independent Film-maker - Lowy Institute

Mark Hanlin

Independent Film-maker

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