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Politically, the western half of the island comprises two provinces of Indonesia: Papua and West Papua.

The eastern half forms the mainland of the country of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The largest island offshore, Dolak (Frederik Hendrik, Yos Sudarso), lies near the Digul estuary, separated by a strait so narrow it has been named a "creek".

New Guinea contains many of the world’s ecosystem types: glacial, alpine tundra, savanna, montane and lowland rainforest, mangroves, wetlands, lake and river ecosystems, seagrasses, and some of the richest coral reefs on the planet.

The highest peaks on the island of New Guinea are: Another major habitat feature is the vast southern and northern lowlands.

Stretching for hundreds of kilometres, these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world.

Yet the two land masses share a similar animal fauna, with marsupials, including wallabies and possums, and the egg-laying monotreme, the echidna.

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The tree line is around 4,000 m (13,100 ft) elevation and the tallest peaks contain permanent equatorial glaciers—which have been retreating since at least 1936.The southern lowlands are the site of Lorentz National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The northern lowlands are drained principally by the Mamberamo River and its tributaries on the Indonesian side, and by the Sepik on the PNG side; the more extensive southern lowlands by a larger number of rivers, principally the Digul on the Indonesian side and the Fly on the PNG side.The name Irian, which was originally favored by natives, is now considered to be a name imposed by the authority of Jakarta.New Guinea is an island to the north of Australia, but south of the equator.

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