Simien National Park, Ethiopia

A spectacular landscape of global significance for biodiversity conservation

By UNESCO World Heritage

Simien Mountains National Park (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The Simien National Park is interspersed with winding roads which allow ease of movement for tourists and park officials, including rangers, as they go about their duties. African Wildlife Foundation is working with communities to keep up park infrastructure including roads and trekking trails in order to ensure round the clock accessibility across the park.

Mountain peaks and deep valleys (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The landscape is a series of breathtaking vistas, characterized by plunging valleys and rugged mountain peaks. The mountains are older than the iconic rift valley, having come into being between 40 and 25 million years ago through volcanic eruptions during the Oligocene period. The mountains are bounded by deep valleys to the north, east and south, and offer vast vistas over the rugged-canyon like lowlands below.

Human settlements (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Human settlements dot the protected area, although most are found at the periphery. The people who live here primarily practice crop farming, but many households also keep livestock including cattle, goats and sheep. Around 582 households are located within the park while another 1,477 are found around its perimeter.

A pair of thick-billed ravens rest on a tree branch (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The Simiens is home to over 180 bird species, five of which are endemic to Ethiopia. The park is especially rich in raptors and vultures. The most interesting of these include Pallid Harrier, Lammergeier Augur Buzzard, Wahlberg’s, Verreaux, and Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Rufous-Breasted Sparrow-hawk, Fox Kestrel, Cape Eagle Owl, Abyssinian Owl and Black stork.

Flowers abound in SMNP (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

A wide variety of plants are found in SMNP, many of them endemic due to the isolation of the habitat. There are over 1,200 plant species, of which three are found only in the Simien Mountains: Festuca gilbertiana, Rosularia simensis and Dianthus longiglumi. There are three main vegetation zones: Montane forest (1,900 to 3,000m), Ericaceous belt (Sub-Afroalpine) (2,700 to 3,700m) and finally the Afroalpine zone (3,700 to 4,533m).

‘The roof of Africa’ (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Ethiopia is home to 80% of the land in Africa above 3,000m. Thus, the Simien Mountains, with the highest point in Ethiopia (Ras Dejen at 4,533m) is also known as ‘the roof of Africa.’ The extreme escarpments provide dramatic views as far as the eye can see.
The park was established in 1966 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. It now occupies an area of 412 sqkm.

Gelada baboon (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Gelada baboons, also known as bleeding-heart baboons, are highly social primates who live in herds and have been found to smack their lips and vocalise in a way that is similar to human speech. They are endemic to Ethiopia and are a big tourist attraction for the national park.

Biodiversity hotspot (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The park enjoys varied vegetation that ranges from montane forests to generous shrubbery, creepers and herbs. However, the park’s rich greenery has suffered in recent years as a result of human activity including overgrazing of livestock and clearing trees for settlements.

A spectacular landscape (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The steep and rugged terrain combined with the high altitude will leave hikers short of breath, but will also reward them with unbeatable views. The majestic rock faces and the plunging valleys work together to create a truly remarkable experience.

Gelada’s fearsome teeth make them formidable fighters (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Geladas are the last surviving species of a once-numerous population of ancient grazing primates, and other than humans, are the only remaining terrestrial primates.

Buffer zones (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Human beings and wildlife are often not the most cordial of neighbours, given the prevalence of human-wildlife conflict within the SMNP and other wildlife-rich landscapes across Africa. Creating buffer zones between human settlements and wildlife habitats has been found to reduce the severity and frequency of conflict incidents.

Walia Ibex (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The SMNP is the last remaining home for the Walia Ibex, a giant mountain goat with horns shaped like a scimitar. Only about 500 Ibex are remaining in the wild, according to the IUCN, and these numbers are still declining due to poaching and habitat loss. The Walia Ibex live in herds of around 20 individuals and are grazers, feeding on herbs, grass, shrubs and creepers. Males and females usually graze separately except when mating.

Visit SMNP (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The best time to visit SMNP is From November to March, when skies are clear and there is little chance of rain, although you should expect it to be quite dusty. A short rainy season occurs between February and March, but the rain is light and is not likely to hamper trekking activity.

Gelada ‘communities’ (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Female geladas tend to be closely related and have strong social ties and stay in their band all their lives.

Ethiopian wolf (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The Ethiopian wolf is the rarest canid in the world, and is only found in the SMNP. There are between 400-500 individuals remaining in the world and their presence is restricted to the mountain top areas of the park.

Ethiopian wolf (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The closest living relatives of the Ethiopian wolf are Eurasian grey wolves and North American coyotes. The Ethiopian wolf ancestor crossed over from Eurasia during the Pleistocene period less than 100,000 years ago. They live in packs of between 2 and 18, sharing and defending an exclusive territory.

Geladas (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Male geladas will often kill the offspring of rivals in infancy so as to return lactating females into a fertile state, in order to induce them to mate.

Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Agency (1978) by Simien National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

In order to reduce anthropological threats against the Walia Ibex and other SMNP endangered species, African Wildlife Foundation is working with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Agency to improve the overall management of the park. This has involved working with communities to create land use plans that prevent grazing in 92 per cent of the park thus allowing wildlife access to uninterrupted habitas.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the African Wildlife Foundation www.awf.org
and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority www.ewca.gov.et

More on Simien National Park
and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/9

Photos: African Wildlife Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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