Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region, its territory covers the Semien Mountains and includes Ras Dashan, the highest point in Ethiopia.
It is home to a number of endangered species, including the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex, a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. The gelada baboon and the caracal, a cat, also occur within the Simien Mountains.
More than 50 species of birds inhabit the park, including the impressive bearded vulture, or lammergeier, with its 10-foot (3 m) wingspan.
The park is crossed by an unpaved road which runs from Debarq, where the administrative headquarters of the park is located, east through a number of villages to the Buahit Pass (4,200 m), where the road turns south to end at Mekane Berhan, 10 kilometers beyond the park boundary.
The park was established in 1969, having been set up by Clive Nicol, who wrote about his experiences in From the Roof of Africa (1971, ISBN 0 340 14755 5).
The Shimien region has been inhabited and cultivated for at least 2,000 years. Today, it is surrounded by a cultural district called Aksum, and over 100 hand-carved stone pillars are found.
Lalibela and Gondar still have 15th century churches and palaces. Initially, erosion began to reveal that the clearing began at the gentle slope of the highland valley but later expanded to a steep slope.
The Shimien area is located at the crossroads of ancient trading routes and records the characteristics of various areas in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was one of the first sites to be made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (1978). However, due to serious population declines of some of its characteristic native species, in 1996 it was also added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Over millions of years, due to the large erosion of the Ethiopian plateau, serrated mountain peaks, deep valleys, and 1,500 meters of sheer cliffs have been created, making it one of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
The heritage area is on the western side of the Semien Mountains and is 120 km away from the Gondar province of Begemder in the northwestern part of Ethiopia. The Shimien area is rich in perforated basalt, and serves as an ideal catchment basin.
Water is reserved by the Mayshasha River, which runs through the two rainy days and the national park from north to south. As a result, national parks are abundant with wildlife and plants.
Flora and fauna
The vegetation is mixed with African alpine forests, wilderness forests and alpine vegetation. High altitude areas include montane savannah and tree heath (Erica arborea), giant lobelia (Lobelia rhynchopetalum), yellow primrose (Primula verticillata), everlastings (Helichrysum spp.), a lady’s mantle (alchemilla), and a moss (mosses, Grimmiaceae). Lichen covers the trees of the alpine area.
The ridges and canyons have scattered meadows, forests and bushes. Forests grew from 3,000 m to 3,800 m above sea level, but now it is almost gone. The exact number is not known.
Also, the park is home to rare species such as gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada), Ethiopian wolf (also called Simen fox, Canis simensis), Walia ibex (Capra walie).
Inhabits on the slope of the northern slope of massif are mostly native to the Semien Mountains, and most of them are found in the park.
The Ethiopian wolf is endemic to Ethiopia and other mammals include hamadryas baboon, colobus monkey, leopard, caracal, wild cat, spotted hyena and jackal. There are also large herbivores, such as bushbuck, common duiker, and klipspringer.
The 400 species of birds include lammergeyer, Verreaux’s eagle, kestrels, vultures, lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus), African buzzard (augur buzzard) and thick-billed raven.
A total of 21 species of mammals, 3 species of endemic species, 63 species of birds and 7 species of endemic species are recorded.
It was established as a national park in 1969 and is protected under the National Reserve Act. Current heritage requires effective management. The number of management staff should be increased and education should be strengthened.
The management of national parks effectively protects the representative species of parks and works closely with local residents to reduce the pressure on park resources by expanding arable land, overfishing livestock, and overcapacity of natural resources. Due to global climate change, pressure on heritage sites is growing.
Sufficient financial support is needed for park management and livelihood alternative development of local residents. It is necessary to prepare, implement, review and monitor the management plan, to revise and expand the boundary of the park, and to participate fully in the local residents.
Local cooperation is particularly important to prevent sustainable use of national park resources and to develop sustainable livelihoods. Adequate financial support for resettlement of inhabitants in the heritage area and the introduction of effective livestock management are essential to reduce the severe stress on wildlife.
In order to maintain excellent universal values, environmental education and training programs of residents living in and out of the heritage are needed as well as obtaining the cooperation and support of local residents in heritage management.