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West Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, is the Indonesian-controlled half of the Papua island (New Guinea). Just a couple of degrees below the equator, it is a country of striking contrasts and amazing cultural diversity. The Central Highlands only came into contact with the rest of the world in the 1950s and remain one of the last truly traditional areas of the world.
The main destination for travellers to West Papua is the Baliem Valley in the Central Highlands.
Lorentz National Park, with an area of 25,056 km2, it is the largest national park in Southeast Asia. In 1999 Lorentz was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The park is named for Hendrikus Albertus Lorentz, a Dutch explorer who passed through the area on his 1909-10 expedition.
An outstanding example of the biodiversity of New Guinea, Lorentz is one of the most ecologically diverse national parks in the world. It is the only nature reserve in the Asia-Pacific region to contain a full altitudinal array of ecosystems ranging through marine areas, mangroves, tidal and freshwater swamp forest, lowland and montane rainforest, alpine tundra, and equatorial glaciers. At 4884 metres, Puncak Jaya (formerly Carstensz Pyramid) is the tallest mountain between the Himalayas and the Andes.
Birdlife International has called Lorentz Park “probably the single most important reserve in New Guinea”. It contains five of World Wildlife Fund's "Global 200" ecoregions: Southern New Guinea Lowland Forests; New Guinea Montane Forests; New Guinea Central Range Subalpine Grasslands; New Guinea Mangroves; and New Guinea Rivers and Streams.
Lorentz Park contains many unmapped and unexplored areas, and is certain to contain many species of plants and animals as yet unknown to Western science. Local communities' ethnobotanical and ethnozoological knowledge of the Lorentz biota is also very poorly documented.
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