Saturday, 28 April 2012 01:27

Simien National Park

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Massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The park is home to some extremely rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else in the world.

Massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m.

The site is located in the western Simen Mountains, 120 km north-east of Gondar in Begemder Province, north-west Ethiopia. With its abundance of creviced basalt rock, Simen serves as an ideal water catchment area, replenished by two wet seasons and the Mayshasha River, which weaves its way north to south through the national park. Consequently the park is rich in a wide range of wildlife and vegetation.

The vegetation is a mixture of afro-alpine woods, heath forest and high montane vegetation. Higher altitudes support montane savannah and montane moor land with tree heath, giant lobelia, yellow primrose, everlastings, lady's mantle and mosses (Grimmiaceae). Lichen drapes the high-altitude forest trees. Ridge tops and gorge sides support coarse grassland with herbs thickets, scattered, and creepers. Forests of St John's wort once flourished at 3,000-3,800 m, but few still remain. There are high, but unquantified, levels of endemism.

The park is home to some extremely rare animals such as the gelada baboon, Simen foxand walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else in the world. Walia ibex on the north scarp of the massif are endemic to the Simen Mountains, with most of the population occurring in the park. Simen fox are endemic to Ethiopia, and other mammals include the hamadryas baboon, colobus monkey, leopard, caracal, wild cat, spotted hyena, jackal and several large herbivores, including bushbuck, common duiker and klipspringer. The 400 bird species include lammergeyer, Verreaux's eagle, kestrel, lanner falcon and augur buzzard. A total of 21 mammals have been recorded, with three endemics and 63 bird species, including seven endemics.

The Simen region has been inhabited by human settlers and cultivators for at least 2,000 years. Today it is surrounded by old cultural centres such as Aksum, where over 100 hand-carved stone monoliths (stelae) can be found, Lalibela and Gonder, where curious 15th-century churches and palaces still stand. Erosion indicates that cultivation first started on the gentler slopes of the highland valleys but later extended onto steeper slopes. Simen is at the crossing of old trade routes and records of various local features were made in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

 

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