QUITO, Ecuador, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Ecuador says it has agreed to refrain from oil drilling in an unspoiled Amazon rain forest reserve in return for $3.6 billion in payments from rich countries.
The country has signed an agreement with the United Nations that will leave oil fields under the Yasuni reserve, one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, undisturbed for at least 10 years, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The almost 4,000-square-mile reserve supports a large mix of wildlife and contains many unique species of birds, monkeys and amphibians.
It is also home to a number of indigenous tribes who applauded the deal, which will protect their territories from oil development.
Environmental groups say Ecuador's oil industry, the source of the country's biggest export, has caused huge damage in the Amazon region.
A trust fund to be administered by the United Nations will be set up under the agreement, and countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy and the United States, say they will contribute.
"This is Ecuador's contribution towards combating climate change," Ecuadorian Heritage Minister Maria Espinoza said.