Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post, Poso
Lore Lindu National Park is a unique place to visit as it is home to flora and fauna peculiar to Central Sulawesi, as well as prehistoric statues and building blocks.
The national park covers an area of 217,991.18 hectares, encompassing Poso and Donggala regencies.
""The park is not only biologically but also archaeologically diverse,"" said Central Sulawesi Governor Aminuddin Ponulele, who is also an environmental studies professor.
Head of the national park's information office Amir Hamzah said the park was not only important to local residents and popular with foreign tourists and scientists, but was considered to possess unique qualities by many international organizations.
Amir said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had granted the park special status on various fronts, including as a biospheric preservation area, world heritage site, endemic bird area, biological diversity center and ecological area.
""UNESCO gave it special recognition in 1997, but only in the past year have people become aware of its status,"" he said.
According to Amir, the national park is home to many animal species -- including several of the bird species in Wallacea area -- that are not found in other parts of the world.
There are 47 endemic species in the province, 42 of which are found in the national park, including the anoa (dwarf buffalo) the babirusa (Sulawesi boar) and the Tonkeana macaque.
Even more intriguing are the megalithic statues and building blocks in the park, which are found in Napu Canyon, Bada and Besoa in North Lore and South Lore districts in Poso regency; and Kulawi district in Donggala regency.
Various archaeological studies have found that the stone forms date from 3,000 BC to 1,300 AD.
""It is presumed that the statues were once the objects of worship,"" said Amir.
The statues are made of gray stone that is not found in the area. Some represent people but though their limbs and genitals can be made out, their facial features have worn away over time.
Although most of the stone forms are between 150 centimeters and 250 cm tall, the tallest statue is four meters high.
Aside from the statues and building blocks Kalamba (large pots), Tutu'na (stone plates) and Batu Dakon (flat, curved stones) can also be found in the park.
Amir said there were about 431 historical sites in the area, of which 349 were located in North Lore district, 55 in South Lore district -- both in Poso regency -- and 27 in Kulawi, Donggala regency.
Residents have fenced off the statues to protect them from vandals. They believe the statues once had special powers, which have waned since the arrival of Christianity in the province.
""With the coming of Christianity, we were asked to establish new villages away from the sites and disassociate ourselves from the statues. We are only developing them now as tourist attractions,"" said community figure Rata Lemba.