Sunday, 16 July 2017

ETHIOPIA: Simien Mountains National Park, The Roof Of Africa

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Semien (North) 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 Simien Mountains National Park in Northern Ethiopia is an exotic setting with unique wildlife and breath-taking views on a landscape shaped by nature and traditional agriculture. The natural beauties of this region have always filled visitors from Ethiopia and abroad with awe.

Gentle highland ridges at altitudes above 3600 meters above sea level (m asl), covered with grasses, isolated trees (Erica &bored) and the bizarre Giant Lobelia (Lobelia rhynchopetalum) are found on the high plateau that ends abruptly at 1000- to 2000-m deep escarpments.

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 .

The margins of this high plateau consist of precipitous cliffs and deep, canyon-style gorges. In some places, the escarpment forms small elevations that offer splendid natal lookout points. The spectacular views from the observation points at Gidir Got and lmet Gogo in the center of the Park offer unparalleled panoramas along the high plateau and down to the lowland areas. Given the right meteorological conditions, views reaching up to a hundred kilometers over the valleys and the terraces of the Tekeze lowland basin are no exception.

Geologically speaking, the entire highlands of the Simien mountains consist of dark Trapp basalt and bright, soft turf. They alternate and constitute a massive complex that is more than 3000 m thick. This complex was formed by volcanic eruptions in the Tertiary Oligocene-Miocene Age some 20-30 million years ago; ever since, it has been going through processes of uplifting and erosion.

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 Gonder 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.

The main attraction of the Simien Moumains National Park is its biosphere: the steep cliffs and the cool climate at the altitude of the Erica tree line (3600 to 4000 m ash) have created conditions that are appropriate for the survival of an ibex species (Capra ibex wee) endemic to the Simien Mountains. Despite the severe restriction of their habitat over the last centuries, several hundred animals have survived up to the present.

Apart from the Walya ibex, many other animal species are found in the Park, for example the endemic Simien fox or Ethiopian wolf (Canis .071817,51-3 simony’s), several birds of prey, the endemic Gelada baboon ( Theropithecusgelada), the Klippspringer (Oreotragus omotragus), and the bush buck (liagelphus scriptus). The rareness of these species formed the backbone of the concept for conservation of the area, which led to the establishment of the Simien Mountains National Park in 1969, and its listing as a World Heritage Site in 1918.

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. At one time, the St. John's wort (Hypericum spp.) 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.

The human population living in the area adds to the distinctiveness of this special natural environment. The traditional lifestyle of the rural population and their survival in a rather harsh climate and with scarce natural resources make for the most striking impressions a visitor will have when trekking in the Park and its surrounding rural area.

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.

Tourism Observer
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