Lorentz National Park
Highlights of Lorentz National Park
Introduction to Lorentz National Park
Lorentz National Park is the largest National Park in South East Asia. It was named after a Dutch explorer who visited the area between 1909-1910, called Hendrikus Albertus Lorentz. It is spread over an area of 25,056km2 (9674 square miles) in the Papua Province of Indonesia, formerly known as Irian Jaya (western New Guinea). It stretches for 150km from the Central Cordillera Mountains in the north to the Arafura Sea in the south. It is the only national park to have such a diverse array of ecosystems, ranging from Tropical Ocean to snowcapped peaks. It includes mangroves, freshwater swamp forest, equatorial glaciers lowland and montane rainforest, marine areas, alpine areas and tidal swamps all within one reserve. Lorentz still has huge areas which are unmapped and unexplored, leading to the expectation that more species of plants and animals still exist here which are still undiscovered.
Lorentz National Park Gallery
Guide to Lorentz National Park
The Lorentz National Park can be divided into two distinct zones: the swampy lowlands and the high mountain area of the central cordillera. The lowland area is a wide, swampy plain with virgin forest and many tidal rivers and streams. The largest of these rivers flow into the Arafura Sea. The mountainous area covers a range of altitudes. The peak of Puncak Jaya at 4884 metres is the highest point in the Lorentz National Park. The park protects areas of land for species that need to move through a variety of altitudes during the year. Large parts of the mountain areas, particularly the lands of the Amungme are known to be rich in gold and copper deposits.
Lorentz has the highest level of biodiversity in the region. Five of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 eco-regions are found within the area including the New Guinea Montane Forests, Southern New Guinea Lowland Forests, New Guinea Rivers and Streams, New Guinea Central Range Sub-alpine Grasslands and the New Guinea Mangroves. The area is considered by Birdlife International to be the most important reserve in New Guinea. It is one of very few places in the world where glaciers exist within the tropics. Hiking, guided tours, bird watching, nature viewing and the exploration of historic sites are all possible.
Lorentz’s biodiversity is still under threat from commercial logging, plantation agriculture, smallholding agriculture, mining, oil and gas development, the illegal animal trade and global warming. Several of the glaciers within Lorentz are receding rapidly. The high area of Puncak Jaya’s peaks had 13 km2 of ice caps in 1936. These had melted to 6.9 km2 in 1972 and 3.3 km2 by 1991. There are now just 3 km2 of ice left in three patches: the North Wall Firn, the Meren and the Carstenz glacier.
The park has 650 species of bird including the Bird of Paradise and many parrots. There are 164 species of mammal including tree kangaroos and a variety of bats. The park also has 150,000 species of insects. In the highlands there are 6 endemic species including the Mountain Quail, the Snow Mountain Robin and the Long-tailed Bird of Paradise. The national park protects 10 species of globally threatened animals including the Southern Cassowary, the Southern Crowned Pigeon and Pesquet’s Parrot. Endangered mammals found here are the Short-beaked Echidna, the Long-beaked Echidna, four species of Cuscus and the Tiger Cat. The national park has 324 species of reptiles and 100 species of freshwater fish. The area is also home to some 11,000 inhabitants who belong to the Asmat, Sempan and Nakai tribes who are hunter-gatherers. The area has been inhabited for at least 5,000 years and within the park are some fossil sites which are believed to provide evidence of the evolution of life on New Guinea.
The climate in the Lorentz National Park is deemed to be ‘humid tropical climatic’. It has 3700mm rainfall in the lowland areas and up to 5000mm in the higher valleys. From October to March westerly winds prevail with easterly winds for the rest of the year. Daytime temperatures range from below freezing, above an altitude of 4800m, to 29-32C in the lowlands.
Due to the lack of access and security problems, less than 100 people visited Lorentz in 1998. Before the civil unrest, around 50 climbers ascended Puncak Jaya each year. There are now three trails to Lake Habbema for tourists to use.
Video of Lorentz National Park
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History of Lorentz National Park
The first protection statutes were given in 1919 when an area of 3,000 km2 was given formal protection by the Dutch Colonial Government and the Lorentz National Monument was established. Many scientific and military expeditions have since visited the site; the most famous one was led by Dutchman Colijin in 1936. One of his team, Dr J.J.Dozy discovered the rich copper and gold deposits which led to massive mining operations. After World War 2, limited scientific work was carried out in the park.
In 1956 the National Monument status was abolished due to conflicts with local people over outstanding land ownership issues. In 1978 an area of 2,150,000 hectares was established as a Strict Nature Reserve (Cagar Alam) by the Indonesian Government. In 1990 the World Wildlife Fund began to gather social and ecological information on the indigenous tribes in the area with a view to developing a management plan. In 1996 a group of these scientists and WWF staff were abducted, due to political unrest in the Lorentz area. Despite the hostage crisis, a mapping program and buffer zone were developed.
In 1996 vegetation and wildlife biodiversity surveys were conducted just west of the national park as part of Freeport’s reclamation project. In 1997 Lorentz National Park was established by the Ministry of Forestry with its current acreage, including the eastern, coastal and marine areas, Mount Trikora, Mount Rumphius and Lake Habbema. Lorentz National Park was recognized as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1999.
Unusually, the National Park currently has no staff or guards and the responsibility for its conservation rests with the local communities.
Getting to Lorentz National Park
Hotel facilities are available outside the park at Timika and Wamena.
No entry fee is charged to visit this National Park. Permits are issued to visitors by the police chief and army headquarters in Jakarta, depending on current conditions.
Access is only available by air from Jayapura to Wamena and Timika.
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