Lorentz National Park, Indonesia

Geographical Location

Lorantz National Park (04º00’-5º15’S, 137º14’-138º20’E) is a World Heritage Site that lies within the Province of Irian Jaya, and the administrative districts of Jayawijaya, Paniai, Merauke (Southern Division), Fak-fak, Mimika and Enarotali. It stretches for over 150 kilometers (km), from the central cordillera mountains in the north to the Arafura Sea in the south. Access is by air from Jayapura to Wamena and Timika.

Date and History of Establishment

The first protection status was given by the Dutch Colonial Government in 1919 with the establishment of the Lorentz Nature Monument. In 1956, the protected status was abolished due to conflicts with local people over unresolved land ownership.

In 1978, it was established as a Strict Nature Reserve (Cagar Alam) by the Indonesian Government with an area of 2,150,000 hectare (ha). In March 1997 it was declared a national park by the Ministry of Forestry, that includes the eastern extension (Mount Trikora, Mount Rumphius, Lake Habbema area) and coastal and marine areas.


caption Lorentz National Park, Indonesia. (Source: The Ministry of Forestry, Republic of Indonesia)

The total area is 2,505,600 ha, about 0.6% of Irian Jaya’s total size.

Land tenure

National Park in the Republic of Indonesia.


Ranges from sea level to 4,884 meters (m) at the summit of Puncak Jaya, Indonesia’s highest mountain.

Physical Features

The Park can be divided into two very distinct zones: the swampy lowlands and the high mountain area of the central cordillera. The central cordillera itself can be subdivided in the eastern part and the western part on the basis of geology and vegetation types, the north-south line at approximately Kwiyawagi village being the dividing line.

The central mountain ranges are the southern portion of two colliding continental plates, which are causing the mountain range to rise. The lowering and rising of the sea level during the glacial and inter-glacial periods of the Pleistocene, along with continuous activity in the mobile belt which characterizes the contact zone of the two colliding lithospheric plates, has continued to promote the great biodiversity of the island of New Guinea in general, and in the Lorentz area in particular. Large tracts of the mountain range, and especially the area formed by the traditional lands of the Amungme (or Amung) are rich in mineral deposits - especially gold and copper.

The Carstenz/Puncak Jaya section of the Jayawijaya Mountain Range still retains small ice caps. It is one of only three equatorial highlands (Sierra Nevada region in the Andes, and Mount Kenya, Kilimanjaro, Ruwenzori in eastern Africa) that is sufficiently high altitude to retain permanent ice, but note that Lorentz glaciers are receding rapidly. Some 3,300 ha of snowfields remained in 1992. The main snowfields comprise five separate areas of ice on the outer margins of Mount Puncak Jaya. These include two small fields which feed the Meren and Carstenz glaciers, and a small hanging glacier on the Carstenz Pyramid.

Puncak Jaya’s summit consists of several peaks (Jayakesuma/Carstenz Pyramid 4,884 m, Ngga Pulu 4,862 m, Meren 4,808 m) that developed from Tertiary rocks (Miocene). This high area was still covered by wide ice caps (13 square kilometers (km2)) in 1936. These ice caps melted down to an area of just 6.9 km in 1972 and further reduced to 3.3 km2 by 1991. The remaining ice is now divided into three patches the North Wall Firn, the Meren and Carstenz glacier with only 3 km2 of ice left. Based on climatic data, a deficit mass balance will continue as the future trend.

The lowland area is a wide swampy plain, covered with virgin forest and intersected by countless winding rivers and streams, mostly tidal. The largest of these rivers empty into the shallow Arafura Sea, which separates the island of New Guinea from Australia.

The Regional Physical Planning Program for Transmigration recognized 9 physiographic types and regions (beaches, tidal swamps, meander belts, peat swamps, alluvial valleys, alluvial fans, dissected terraces, mountains and alpine summits) with 13 major land systems.


Lies within the humid tropical climatic zone. Rainfall in the lowland area averages 3,700 millimeters (mm) (3,160-4,100 mm per annum). Western winds prevail between October and March, while the Eastern winds blow from April until September. The period from December until March is usually characterized by high waves in the coastal areas. Daytime temperatures range from 29-32 degrees Celsius (C) in the lowlands, to below freezing above the 4,800 m contour line. Early morning snow on top of the summits of Mont Trikora and Mount Jaya, or even down to 3,800 m, occurs regularly, but permanent snow and ice is only to be found in the Mount Jaya area. In the mountains, the weather conditions are more dependent upon the immediate topography. Rainfall in the higher valleys ranges between 3,500 and 5,000 mm/year.


Based on physiographic types, five altitudinal vegetation zones have been identified within Lorentz National Park: lowland zone, montane zone, subalpine zone, alpine zone, and nival zone. Some of the zones are further divided into subzones.

The lowland zone comprises the Beach Subzone (0-4 m altitude) covered by a vegetation ranging from pioneer herbaceous communities on the first beach ridge to tall mixed forest inland. The tidal swamp subzone (0-1 m) comprises one land system, the Kajapah land system (KJP) consisting of inter-tidal swamps of mangrove and nipah palm. The muddy south coast of the park supports extensive mangrove communities that are probably the most diverse in the world. Five mangrove communities have been described: Avicennia/Sonneratia community, Rhizophora-dominated community, Bruguiera-dominated forest, Nypa-dominated forests, and Landward mixed mangrove forest. The lowland freshwater swamps (of Peat Swamp subzone, 3-50 m) are very extensive, reaching 50 km inland in the western part and more than 80 km along the eastern boundary. The swamps contain a diversity of vegetation types, including open water, herbaceous vegetation, grass swamps, peat swamps, woodlands and swamp forests. The alluvial Fan Subzone (50-150 m) consists of alluvial fan plains and resembles most closely the theoretical climax vegetation type for the area. Tropical dryland evergreen lowland forest. Dominant families include Annonaceae, Burseraceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Ebenaceae, Fagaceae, Leguminoseae, Meliaceae, Moraceae, Myrtaceae and Stercuilaceae.

The montane altitudinal zone comprises the Kemum Land System, which consists of steep-sided deeply dissected mountain ridges. This altitudinal zone is subdivided into lower montane subzone, mid-montane subzone and upper montane subzone. The lower montane subzone (600-1,500 m) includes the foothills and lower montane slopes. The forest is very distinct from the surrounding zones. It differs from the alluvial forests in being lower and more closed. These forests form the most floristically rich zones of New Guinea and contain more than 80 genera and 1,200 species of trees. The vegetation types of the mid-montane subzone are mixed mid-montane forest, Castanopsis forest, Nothofagus forest, coniferous forest, mid-montane swamp forest, mid-montane sedge-grass swamp, mid-montane Phragmites grass swamps, mid-montane Miscanthus grassland and succession on abandoned gardens. The mid-montane forest in this altitude is referred to as cloud or mossy forest.

The subalpine zone occurs from 3,200 m to 4,170 m. All alpine zones are located above 4,170 m and consist of alpine peaks with bare rocks and residual ice caps. The lower subalpine forest is floristically poor. The forest in this zone has a closed canopy, which reaches to 10 m height, with emergents up to 15 m. Rapanea sp., Dacrycarpus compactus and Papuacedrus papuas tend to be dominant species. Near the forest limit, the forest is dominated by Ericaceae and Epacridacaeae.

The alpine zone lies between 4,170 m and 4,585 m. The alpine vegetation includes all communities growing above the tall shrub limits. These are grassland, heath and tundra. The dominant grasses at 4,200 m are Agrostis reinwardtii, Deyeuxia brassi, Anthoxantium angustum, Monostachya oreoboloides and Poa callosa. The ground is covered by bryophytes and liches and scattered scrubs are common.


caption The Short-beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus, which can be found in the park, is one of the world's three monotreme's. (Source: Australian National Botanic Gardens)

The fauna is estimated to comprise 164 species of mammals and 650 species of birds and 150,000 species of insects.

In the highlands of Lorentz National Park, 6 species are endemic to the Snow Mountains, including the Mountain Quail Anurophasis monorthonyx, the Snow Mountain Robin Petroica archboldii and the Long-tailed Paradiagalla Bird of Paradise, Paradiagalla caruneulata. Twenty six species are endemic to the central Papuan ranges EBA (Endemic Bird Area) while three species are endemic to the south Papuan lowlands EBA. Globally threatened animal species, of which at least 10 species are found in the area, include the Southern Cassowary, Casuarius casuarius, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Goura scheepmakeri and Pesquet’s parrot , Psittrichas fulgidus found in the lowlands. Vulnerable and threatened birds of the mountains include Salvadori’s Teal, Anas waigiuensis, the Snow mountain robin, Petroica archboldi and McGregor’s Bird of Paradise, Macgregoria pulchra.

Mammals include two of the world’s three monotremes; the Short-beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus, a species shared with Australia, and the Long-beaked Echidna Zaglossus bruijinii, a New Guinea endemic. Mammals also include a range of marsupials including at least four species of cuscus, several species of tree kangaroo Dendrolagus spp. and one species of Dasyuridae which is often referred to as the "Tiger cat" Dasyurus albopunctatus. 324 species of reptiles have been identified in the site. Little is known about the diversity of amphibians. Ninety species have been collected during the survey in 1997 and more species are supposed to occur. Species of conservation concern include the new undescribed species of lizard Lobulia sp. Restricted to the subalpine zone, the rare Fly River Turtle Carettochelys insculpta, which reaches its recorded occurrence in Lorentz National Park. It is threatened by hunting, egg collection and trade) and two species of crocodiles Crocodylus porosus and C. novaeguineae.

It is estimated that more than 100 species of freshwater fish species occur in the park. Catfishes, rainbow fishes, gobies and gudgeons are particularly common.

Cultural Heritage

The indigenous human population comprises eight (and possibly nine) tribal groups, namely; Nduga, Amungme (Damal), Nakai (Asmat Keenok), Sempan, West Dani and Komoro. The region has been inhabited for over 24,000 years and has evolved some of the most distinctive and long isolated cultures in the world. Of these, the agricultural Dani tribe of the Baliem valley is the best documented. To the south, the Kamoro, Asmat and Sempan tribes inhabit the lowland rivers and swamps and follow a semi-nomadic lifestyle, which is supplemented by simple but effective forms of agriculture. These traditional economies have evolved in harmony with the environment and are controlled by a complex system of cultural taboos and rituals that have helped to prevent over-exploitation of forest resources.

Local Human Population

Inhabited by people for at least 5,000 years, the park is home to eight (and possibly nine) tribal groups who have to a great extent maintained their traditional life styles and total some 6,300 people. The highland people include Amungme (Damal), Western Dani, Nduga, and Ngalik. They practice rotational agriculture of root crops, mainly taro and sweet potatoes. Pigs play an important role in rituals. The lowland people within the park (Asmat, Mimika and a yet undescribed group called Somohai in the southern foothills close to the Baliem gorge depend almost entirely on Sago (Metroxylon sago) as a food source. The Mimika are divided in two linguistic groups, the Sempan and the Kamoro. The Kamoro live in the south-western corner of the park while the Sempan inhabit the south-eastern part. Two Asmat linguistic groups live within Lorentz National Park, Emari Ducur (Sumapero, Nakai, Au, Kapi, As-Atat) and Unir Siran (Keenok: Ipam, Esmapan, Iroko, Jakapis) while the Joerat group lives east of the park boundary around the villages Sawa and Erma. There are approximately 1,000 Mimika and 1,300 Asmat. The number of Nguga living within the borders of the park is estimated at 1,500 people. The Amungme (Damal) tribe is found in the Central Highland, south and north of Mount Jaya, spread out over a least 30 communities. They are estimated at around 2,500 people. Since the 1960’s the Amungme people of the Lorentz area have seen rapid changes come to their land and their lives, due to the initiation of a massive mining operation on their land which commenced operation in 1972. They rarely use land in the upper alpine regions (above 4,000 m) as this area is considered sacred. The upper montane areas (3,000-4,000 m) are mainly used for hunting and gathering. Amungme villages are usually found at elevations of 1,000-2,000 m above sea level although they now also live, hunt or gather at even lower elevations in lowland forest and on the plains (0-100 m).

Visitors and Visitor Facilities

Due to security and access difficulties and lack of facilities, tourism was limited to less than 100 people in 1998. Before recent civil unrest, some 50 climbers ascended Puncak Jaya each year. Three trails are used by tourists to Lake Habbema. Hotel facilities are available outside the park at Timika and Wamena.

Scientific Research and Facilities

Many scientific and military expeditions are reported to have occurred in the site. The most famous expedition was led by the Dutchman Colijin in 1936. One member of his team Dr. J.J. Dozy discovered the extremely rich copper and gold deposits in the Carstenz area, and his findings led to a massive mining operation by Freeport Indonesia. Between World War II and recent times, limited scientific work was conducted in the area. In 1996 and 1997 vegetation and wildlife biodiversity surveys were conducted in the area just west of the Lorentz NP as part of Freeport’s reclamation project and environmental impact assessment.

Conservation Value

In 1991, the area was listed as one of the sites with highest priority for conservation in Indonesia’s National Biodiversity Action Plan.

The park is particularly important for its size and richness, diversity and representativeness of its flora and fauna. ie. Largest forested protected area in Asia/Pacific region. It is an almost 90% pristine, unspoiled wilderness. It is of greatest importance for the protection of an integrated wilderness transect of southern Irian Jaya, which ranges from major lowland ecosystems through mid altitudes to alpine ecosystems. It protects species that need to move along an altitudinal gradient throughout the year.

Conservation Management

In 1990, the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Natural Resource Management formally approached the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia Program to request assistance in conducting research and designing a management plan. In co-operation with PHPA, WWF prepared a framework park management system that will take into account the traditional land tenure and resource use systems of the tribal communities living within the park.

From 1990 onwards, WWF has gathered basic social and human ecological information on the various tribal groups in the park as a first step in the process of developing the management plan. However, in 1996, a group of scientists, including WWF and PHPA staff were abducted in the north eastern part of the reserve and due to the political unrest in the Lorentz area, surveys were restricted to the buffer zone and the Asmat area of the park. Despite the hostage crisis, WWF and PHPA in cooperation with the Government have started a participatory resource mapping program to rationalize land use planning in the buffer zone and involve local people in boundary delineation, park zonation, and buffer zone development, particularly since the status changed from Strict Nature Reserve to National Park in 1997.

All major stakeholders (provincial and district governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), local communities and private sector such as Freeport Inc.) are involved in management planning. They participated in a Lorentz National Park planning workshop and agreed that the Lorentz should be nominated as a World Heritage Site.

The government of Indonesia is promoting private sector investments and government sponsored projects such as the development of a new town, infrastructure, transmigration, agriculture and industries. To minimize impact on the park, the provincial government in co-operation with Freeport Indonesia have developed a spatial plan that directs all development away from the Park and creates a large buffer zone along its western boundary.

Management Constraints

caption One of the problems with conservation in the area is the Freeport gold mine by Mount Puncak Jaya. (Source: United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

A number of management problems are due to the activities of the large Freeport gold mine, which is located on the slopes of the Carstenz massif near Mount Puncak Jaya and which began in 1972. The predominantly open cast mining techniques have had a number of negative environmental impacts, including river pollution, oil spillages, logging for fuel supplies and extensive building development for the 4,000 strong work force. According to Survival International (1988), the development has also had a negative impact upon the local indigenous Amungme tribe, many of whom have become displaced by the operation. There is however a Law No.5 and the joint decree from the Ministry of Forestry and Mines and Energy 1989 and 1991, prohibiting any mining inside national parks.

Other threats include three road schemes which would traverse Lorentz National Park including a road between Timika on the western boundary and Aramsolki in the center of the park. A large area of the Park was under mining exploration but the larger of these have been declared invalid. One petroleum exploration title remains in the park, located in the south eastern edge of the park and held by Comico. Negotiations are underway with the company to reduce or eliminate the incursion into the park.

A minor and localized threat comes from uncontrolled tourism developments in the Lake Habbema area (a high altitude swampland). Trekking tourism to Mount Jaya has already had a severe ecological impact due to littering and firewood collection. In September 1997, an extraordinary drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon led to severe forest fires starting from small-scale land clearings by local farmers, affecting at least 6,000 ha within the park. A forestry concession outside the eastern boundary of Lorentz also directly affects the site by promoting water access illegal logging. Hunting and [trade and the environment|trade]] of protected species and the introduction of exotic species has been identified as a problem.


40 regional rangers based in 4 field stations. In 2000, Park Directors and additional staff will be appointed and a Park HQ established.


WWF has had a field project since 1990 with about $300,000 spent in 1997-1998. The project has been extended for 3 years with support from U.S. AID.

IUCN Management Category

  • Lorentz National Park II (National Park)
  • Natural World Heritage Site - Criteria i, ii, iii, iv

Further Reading

Over 40 references provided with the Nomination document including a bibliography (Ballard 1996), most of them recent studies.

  • Kartawinata, K., and Widjaja, E. (1988). Consultants’ Report on Preparation for Development of Lorentz National Park, Irian Jaya. UNESCO/Government of Indonesia UNDP/IBRD Project INS/8E/013. 73 pp.
  • Manembu, N. (1991). The Sempan, Nduga, Nakai and Amungme peoples of the Lorentz area. WWF Project 4521. WWF - Indonesia, Jayapura. 117pp.
  • Petocz, R.G. and de Fretes, Y. (1983). Mammals of the reserves in Irian Jaya. WWF/IUCN Conservation for Development Programme in Indonesia. WWF - Indonesia, Jayapura. Pp. 72-75
  • Petocz, R.G., Kirenius, M. and de Fretes, Y. (1989). Avifauna of the reserves in Irian Jaya. WWF/IUCN Conservation for Development Programme in Indonesia, WWF - Indonesia, Jayapura. 226pp.
  • Petocz, R.G. (1989). Conservation and development in Irian Jaya: astrategy for rational resource utilization. E.J. Brill. Leiden, the Netherlands. 218 pp ISBN: 9004088326.
  • Schodde, R., van Tets, G.F., Champion, C.R., and Hope, G.S. (1974). Observations on Birds at Glacial Altitudes on the Carstensz Massif, Western New Guinea. Papuasian Ornithology 4: 65.
  • Silvius, M.J. (1989). Wetlands in Lorentz Proposed National Park, Indonesia. In: Scott, D.A. (Ed.), A directory of Asian wetlands. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Pp. 1091-1092. ISBN: 2880329841.
  • Survival International (1986). Tribal Peoples in Indonesia. Survival International News 12. 5 pp.
  • WWF (1990). The WWF in Indonesia’s Irian Jaya conservation programme (summary). November 1990. The Lorentz National Park Project 1991-1995. WWF - Indonesia, Jayapura. Pp. 6-13, and Final Project Report 1995-1997.

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



M, U. (2008). Lorentz National Park, Indonesia. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/154292


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