The Lorentz National Park on the island of New Guinea is the largest nature reserve in Southeast Asia with an area of 25,000 km². Its landscape is enormous: it ranges from around 5000 m high, snow-capped peaks to tropical coastal land. The national park is the habitat of an extremely rich, partly still unexplored fauna and flora.
Lorentz National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Lorentz National Park|
|Natural monument:||named after the Dutch researcher Dr. HA Lorentz, who led an expedition to Mount Trikora in 1909; Total area of the world heritage site 23,500 km², the largest protected area in Southeast Asia, national park since 1997, which also includes the areas around Mount Trikora and Mount Rumphius, heights up to 4884 m (Puncak Jaya), habitat of 8 indigenous peoples, including the Dani and Komoro|
|Country:||Indonesia, Irian Jaya|
|Location:||Southwest of Irian Jaya, east of Amamapara|
|Meaning:||a high degree of biodiversity at the intersection of two continental plates|
|Flora and fauna:||swampy lowlands and high mountains with 69 km² of glacier areas such as on the Puncak Jaya and Idenburg as well as Meren and Ngga Pulu; Vegetation zones from the tide-dependent mangrove swamp to lowlands with plant families such as Leguminoseae and Myrtaceae and mountain forests with populations of beech and conifers to the alpine highlands with grasses such as Agrostis reinwardtii; 164 species of mammals such as short- and long-billed hedgehogs, same-color kusus, striped pouches, Doria tree kangaroo, silk broad-footed pouch mouse; among the 650 bird species spectacle and lobed bird of paradise and bristle head; 324 species of reptiles|
Glacier hoods over the tropical belt
Located in the western half of New Guinea annexed by Indonesia, according to computergees, this protected area covers an area of more than two million hectares. The first European to report on the snow-covered heights near the equator in 1623 was Jan Cartenz. This Dutch merchant had just sailed around the southwest coast of New Guinea on his way to Australia and was impressed by the snow-capped mountains that he spotted further inland. But it was a few centuries before a white man’s foot first stepped on the tropical forest floor in this part of what is now Irian Jaya. It was a compatriot von Cartenz, the explorer Dr. HA Lorentz, who at the beginning of the 20th century was preparing to climb the summit of Mount Mandala (Wilhelmina).
What makes the national park an ecological jewel today is the sheer extent of the protected tropical rainforest. In this part of the world, the largest area of such a rainforest in Southeast Asia and the Pacific is preserved as a piece of untouched nature for posterity, which is now rather a rarity, since the greed for noble woods and the need for arable land mostly to cut down primary forest stands and unchecked slash and burn. Not only the landscape profile with an eye-catching, towering mountain range, but also the different habitats – glacier-covered heights of the Cartenz and Puncak Jaya, the highest peaks in Southeast Asia, alpine meadows, mountain forests, moist lowland rainforest, Fresh water swamps and mangrove fringes on the coast – make up this national park. In addition, extensive tidal flats and seagrass meadows were included in the national park, which are important food sources for green turtles and hawksbill turtles.
There are 34 types of vegetation in the national park, which represent almost all of the essential habitats in Irian Jaya. Among experts who deal with mammals, this national park is considered to be particularly important in terms of the biodiversity of the mammals in Melanesia. And it’s only been two years since Tim Flannery discovered a new species of tree kangaroo within the boundaries of the sanctuary.
The national park is also of particular importance for the preservation of bird species that only occur there, such as the Lapp paradise bird. Despite all concern for the preservation of nature, it is important to point out that nine different ethnic groups live in this nature reserve, who also have the right to the protection of their cultures. Among them are the Asmat, known worldwide for their masterly carving skills and two groups of whom – Emari Ducur and Unir Siran – have their home within the park boundaries. In particular, their partially nomadic way of life has so far contributed to the fact that excessive use of the natural environment has not materialized.
As the national park represents an excellent mixture of the geology, topography and the main habitats of this part of Irian Jaya, it offers a good basis for the study of an almost untouched ecosystem of New Guinea in the future. This includes the properties of surface and subterranean waters to be examined, aspects of the food chain, the influence of fire on nature, but also the migration and habitat of individual animal species. Such an exploration of the national park should certainly contribute to a better understanding of the ecology of the region and ultimately also be of particular importance for the development of a comprehensive management plan for the environment to be preserved inside and outside of the previous protected areas in Irian Jaya.