Awashe park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Spanning across the southern tip of the Afar Region and the northeastern corner of the Misraq Shewa Zone of Oromia, this park is 225 kilometers east of Addis Ababa (and a few kilometers west of Awash), with its southern boundary along the Awash River, and covers at least 756 square kilometers of acacia woodland and grassland. The Addis Ababa – Dire Dawa highway passes through this park, separating the Illala Saha Plains to the south from the Kudu Valley to the north. In the south of the park the Awash River gorge has amazing waterfalls. In the upper Kudu Valley at Filwoha are hot springs amid groves of palm trees.
The Awash National Park was established in 1966, although the act authorizing its existence was not completely passed for another three years. In establishing this park, as well as the Metehara Sugar Plantation to the south, the livelihoods of the Karayyu Oromo people indigenous to that area have been endangered—an effect that is contrary to the Ethiopian government’s original intention of these establishments serving to benefit the local population.
Abijatta-Shalla National Park is one of the National Parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Oromia Region 200 kilometers south of Addis Ababa to the east of the Ziway–Shashamane highway, it contains 887 square kilometers including the Rift Valley lakes of Abijatta and Shalla. The two lakes are separated by three kilometers of hilly land. The altitude of the park ranges from 1540 to 2075 meters, the highest peak being Mount Fike, which is situated between the two lakes.
Besides the two lakes, the primary attraction of this national park are a number of hot springs on the northeast corner of Lake Abijatta, and large numbers of flamingoes on the lake. Care must be exercised in driving vehicles out to the edge of this lake, as the thin crust of dried mud on the surface can give way without warning.
Although its intent was to protect wildlife, few wild animals currently can be viewed there. During the tumultuous period of the last days of the Derg regime, and for some time afterwards, large numbers of nomads took advantage of weakened central authority to move into the Park and set up residence with their livestock. Much of the Acacia woodland surrounding Lake Abijatta has been cut down for charcoal. Currently, not only do small groups continue to fell Acacia trees, but they go as far as to remove the salty soil from the lake shoreline and sell it.
A recent visitor noted that while viable breeding populations of greater kudu, Giant Striped Gnu, Grant’s gazelle, black-backed jackal and spotted hyena may exist, he saw no evidence of their presence. Although baboons are still quite common, they were outnumbered by the livestock introduced by cattle herders. A few Grant’s gazelle and several ostriches were kept in a fenced enclosure near the gate house. Nevertheless more than 300 bird species have been recorded in Abijatta-Shalla or the remnants of the adjacent park-like woodland. Reportedly, rehabilitation of this National Park had begun in 1996, and plans for active integration of local communities in its future planning and development had been announced.
Nechisar National Park (also spelled as Nech Sar) is one of the National Parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) immediately to the east of Arba Minch, its 514 square kilometers of territory include the “Bridge of God” (an isthmus between Lakes Abaya and Chamo), and the Nechisar (English: white grass) plains east of the lakes. Park elevations range between 1108 and 1650 meters above sea level. Nechisar National Park was established in 1974. Under the management of African Parks Network (APN since 2005, it is reportedly scheduled to hand over management to the Ethiopian government in June 2008.
As part of an UNESCO plan to protect and conserve nature and natural resources inside Ethiopia, a two man team of UNESCO consultants spent three months surveying most major wildlife areas in Ethiopia, and officially submitted to the Wildlife Conservation Board in 1965 their recommendations, which included a game reserve to the east of Lake Chamo to provide protection for the population of Swayne’s Hartebeest and other local wildlife. The Nechsar National Park was proposed in 1967, then officially established in 1974. Since then it has not legally been gazetted, but has functioned as de facto national park. Following the recommendations of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture recommendation, in 1982 the local Guji, who had been living as pastoralists in the lowlands beside Lake Abaya and Chamo “were forcibly evicted from the park at gun point”.
In the lawless period at the end of the Derg rule and immediately afterwards, Nechisar suffered much damage. Park buildings located far from the headquarters were looted and damaged. At the same time, the local Guji returned to their traditional grazing areas. According to one source, they fled there from the attacks of the Borena Oromo, who in turn were victimized by neighboring ethnic groups, their presence degrading the environment and contributing to the local extinction of many species. The Guji also acquired firearms during this period, and used them to resist eviction from the Park afterwards. In 2004/05, Refugees International criticized their eviction.
In 2005, the management responsibility for Nechisar National Park was handed over to APN. In consultation with the Ethiopian government and the SNNPR government they began attempting to address the problems with illegal operations in the park including the illegal cutting down of trees for firewood for Arba Minch, illegal fishing, illegal human settlement and cattle grazing inside the park. APN assigned a group of scouts to improve the protection of the area.
One of the major environmental concerns facing the park is illegal fishing operations on Lake Abaya and Chamo. According to Abera Adnew, deputy manager of Arba Minch Fishermen Cooperatives, “There are over 3000 illegal fishermen working on Lake Abaya,”. The Arba Minch Fishermen Cooperative has attempted to address the problem but has faced much hostility from the illegal fisherman who depend on the fish stocks for their livelihoods. The problem is enhanced by water recession from the shore during the dry seasons and the volume has been diminishing in the last few years as tributary rivers were diverted for irrigation. A tributary, the Kulfo River, which once had an abundant fish population has dried out considerably during dry season. Some farmers in the park have taken advantage of the dry land on the shores and have begun banana cultivation in recent years referred to the locals as “soke”.
Mago National Park is one of the National Parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region about 782 kilometers south of Addis Ababa and north of a large 90° bend in the Omo River, the 2162 square kilometers of this park are divided by the Mago River, a tributary of the Omo, into two parts. To the west is the Tama Wildlife Reserve, with the Tama river defining the boundary between the two. To the south is the Murle Controlled Hunting Area, distinguished by Lake Dipa which stretches along the left side of the lower Omo. The park office is 115 kilometers north of Omorate and 26 kilometers southwest of Jinka. All roads to and from the park are unpaved.
The major environments in and around the Park are the rivers and riverine forest, the wetlands along the lower Mago and around Lake Dipa, the various grasslands on the more level areas, and scrub on the sides of the hills. Open grassland comprises about 9% of the park’s area. The largest trees are found in the riverine forest beside the Omo, Mago and Neri. Areas along the lower Omo (within the park) are populated with a rich diversity of ethnic groups, including the Aari, Banna, Bongoso, Hamar, Karo, Kwegu, Male and Mursi peoples.
The Mago National Park was established in 1979, making it the newest of Ethiopia’s several National Parks. Its highest point is Mount Mago (2528 meters). Indigenous bird life include the extremely uncommon Turdoides tenebrosus especially at Lake Dipa, Estrilda troglodytes in the rank grass along streams and swamp edges, Phoeniculus damarensis, Porphyrio alleni, Butorides striatus also at Lake Dipa, and in riverine contexts Pluvianus aegypticus, Scotopelia peli and Cossypha niveicapilla. The park’s perhaps best known attraction are the Mursi, known for piercing their lips and inserting disks made of clay.
Omo National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region on the west bank of the Omo River, the park covers approximately 4,068 square kilometers, about 870 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa; across the Omo is the Mago National Park. Although an airstrip was recently built near the park headquarters on the Mui River, this park is not easily reachable; the Lonely Planet guide Ethiopia and Eritrea describes Omo National Park as “Ethiopia’s most remote park.”
The lower reaches of the Omo river were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, after the discovery (in the Omo Kibish Formation) of the earliest known fossil fragments of Homo sapiens, which have been dated circa 195,000 years old.
There is virtually no tourist infrastructure within the park and little support for travellers. It was reported in 1999 that none of the tourist agencies within or outside Ethiopia would arrange tours in the park. The Walta Information Center announced 3 October 2006 that US$1 million had been allocated to construct “roads and recreational centres as well as various communication facilities” with the intent to attract more visitors.
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. Outstanding Universal Value.
Simien National Park, in northern Ethiopia is a spectacular landscape, where massive erosion over millions of years has created jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The park is of global significance for biodiversity conservation because it is home to globally threatened species, including the iconic Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world, the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf.The property’s spectacular landscape is part of the Simien mountain massif, which is located on the northern limit of the main Ethiopian plateau and includes the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dejen. The undulating plateau of the Simien mountains has over millions of years been eroded to form precipitous cliffs and deep gorges of exceptional natural beauty. Some cliffs reach 1,500 m in height and the northern cliff wall extends for some 35 km. The mountains are bounded by deep valleys to the north, east and south, and offer vast vistas over the rugged-canyon like lowlands below. The spectacular scenery of the Simien mountains is considered to rival Colorado’s Grand Canyon.
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 Simien 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 (3m) 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 Bale Mountains National Park Rated by the African Bird Club as the number four birding site in Africa, the Bale Mountains are home to over 282 species of birds, including nine of the 16 species endemic to Ethiopia. Furthermore, over 170 migratory birds have been recorded within the park. Bale Mountains National Park is home to almost every highland Abyssinian and Ethiopian endemic.
With over 863 species of birds recorded, representing approximately 9.5% of the world’s bird diversity and 39% of the bird species in Africa, Ethiopia is often considered one of the most avifaunal-rich countries in Africa. Sixteen of Bale’s bird species are endemic to Ethiopia.
Due to the diversity and density of rodents, the Bale Mountains are also an extremely important area for resident as well as wintering and passing raptors. Ethiopian endemic birds found in the Bale Mountains include: blue-winged goose (Cyanochen cyanoptera), spot-breasted lapwing (Vanellus melanocephalus), yellow-fronted parrot (Poicephalus flavifrons), Abyssinian longclaw (Macronyx flavicollis), Abyssinian catbird (Parophasma galinieri), Bale parisoma (Parisoma griseiventris), Ethiopian siskin (Serinus nigriceps), fawn-breasted waxbill (Estrilda paludicola) and the Abyssinian owl (Asio abyssinicus). The People of Bale The people of the region are dominantly Oromo-speaking farmers and cattle herders. The population of the entire Bale Zone is approximately 1.5 million. Afan Oromo is the official language of Oromia. It belongs to the Cushitic languages, and serves as a sort of Lingua franca for over 25 million Oromos. However, most people in Bale Mountains speak some Amharic. The predominant religion in the Bale Mountains is Muslim (77%), followed by Orthodox Christian (20%) and Protestant (1%). The Bale Mountains are the true ancestral home of the Oromo, the largest single ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. Living as pastoralists and farmers, the population grew quite quickly and expanded to different corners of the country beginning in the 16th century. Little is known about the Oromo people of the area and how they came to be there. They are part of the eastern Cushitic people stemming from a branch of the Caucasoid race (which includes Western Asians, Arabs and Europeans), and are distributed from Wello in Ethiopia’s north, to Mombasa in Kenya to the south. Some 3,000 years ago, they passed on practices such as the initiation ceremony of circumcision and habit of not eating fish to Nilotic peoples in the West. Furthermore, they incorporated the ideas of the Gadaa system and cattle husbandry into their own society. The Gadaa system is based on the principles of classifying a society into 11 functional grades, each of which has its special roles and statuses. Currently people subsist mainly on agriculture.
They follow a traditional transhumance system known as the Godantu system, a key feature of traditional human use of the Bale Mountains. In this system, livestock, particularly cattle, are sent to higher grazing grounds during the months when crops are growing in lower altitudes or into the forest for shade during the dry season. However this should not be confused with the cattle movements that are a consequence of the loss of grazing land outside of the park, thus forcing cattle into the park to graze. Bale houses are circular in shape and locally referred to as “Mana citaa.” Juniper and sometimes eucalyptus are used to make the walls and roof. The roof is covered with thatched grass cut from “citaa” (tussock grass) or stubble, especially barley, and supported by a wooden pillar, which stands in the middle of the floor. The house is divided into portions by walls made of bamboo or mud mixed with stubble of barley or grass.
History In contrast to other parts of Ethiopia, very little was written about the Bale Mountains prior to the 1950s, despite the facts that Goba (a main town within the mountains) was connected to Addis Ababa by a telegraph line in 1931, was served with Ethiopian Airlines DC-3 aircraft prior to the 1950s, and that the brief period of Italian government (1935-1941) reached the region with stations in Goba, Dinsho and Delo-Mena. As records begin to appear at the beginning of the 20th century, the Bale Mountains were largely uninhabited. The first recorded visit was by the German naturalist and explorer Carlo Von Erlanger who reached the Bale Mountains between 1899 and 1901. During his time in the region, he documented the existence of the giant molerat.
Thereafter, a Frenchman, the Vicomte du Bourg, spent two months in Goba in 1901 hunting elephant to the south and traveling around the mountains. He recorded the existence of elephant and buffalo in the Harenna Forest, and commented on the ivory hunting of the area – primarily by mounted horsemen using guns. Following these early records, there is no information until the late 1950s, when Finnish geographer, Helmer Smels, arrived in Bale. He made three journeys to Bale and crossed the area from Goba, through Rira to Delo-Mena. By the time of his visits, just 50 years after Vicomte du Bourg had noted the presence of elephants, they had disappeared from the Harenna Forest. Smels noted that although the Sanetti Plateau was uninhabited, people drove their cattle to the plateau for grazing during the dry season, sometimes for up to three months.
Additionally, the mountains were used for their mineral springs or horas, to which the pastoral people also drove their cattle. People stayed overnight in simple, temporary shelters made of split bamboo. The Harenna Forest was uninhabited but for small groups of temporary huts in some of the clearings where people grazed their cattle for part of the year. Although not dwelling there permanently, honey gatherers have always been active in the Harenna Forest. During the same period, a British botanist, Herbert Mooney, visited the Harenna Forest and Sanetti Plateau. He noted the growing settlement of Rira within the Harenna Forest and other hamlets of honey gatherers and pastoral people. Although the Harenna Forest was probably quite populated towards the end of the 19th century, the area was depopulated again as a result of a rinderpest epidemic that killed most of the cattle in the early 1890s. The impetus for the present National Park began with two visits to the area in 1963 and 1965 by the British naturalist, Dr. Leslie Brown who was in the area explicitly to assess the status of mountain Nyala. The major recommendation of his visits was that a national park should be established in the Bale Mountains to protect their habitat. John Blower, advisor to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization (now Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA)) and a Peace Corps volunteer, followed through with Dr. Brown’s recommendation by surveying the area and proposed boundaries of the park.
In 1969 the Bale Mountains National Park was established. Battle of antukyah Threats Bale Mountains National Park is faced with many threats associated with an ever developing and an increasingly populated Ethiopia. One of the biggest threats to the park is grazing. For example, within the Web Valley, a prime Ethiopian wolf habitat, cattle density is estimated at 250 per square kilometer. Other threats include increasing settlements within the park. Currently over 40,000 people live within the park’s boundaries, increasing pressure on the natural resources of the area and diminishing natural habitats of wild animals. With these settlements come domestic dogs, which pose a great threat to the Ethiopian wolf. Dogs transmit rabies and canine distemper, and in 2010 killed 106 individuals (approximately 40% of the Bale population).
Other serious threats include the use of the wolf habitat by livestock for grazing which significantly reduces the availability of rodent prey. Over 12 million people, their livestock and the environment in the south of Ethiopia as well as neighboring Somalia and northern Kenya rely on the water that originates from the Bale massif. Unsustainable use and pollution are major threats. Conservationists suggest that if conservation efforts in the Bale Mountains are not successful and people continue to exploit the resources in an unsustainable way, more species of mammal would go extinct than any other area of equivalent size on the planet.
Activities The Bale Mountains National Park is open year-round although the most popular time to visit is November through April when the rains have stopped. The Park can be reached by private car or public transportation from Addis Ababa. Visitors may choose to trek throughout the Park either by horseback or on foot, or alternatively to visit the Park entirely by car. Treks range from one to 12 nights and travel through all the different ecosystems of the Park.
Gambela National Park is a proposed national park, but the steps needed to fully protect it by the government of Ethiopia have not been completed as of 2002. Located in the Gambela Region, its 5061 square kilometers of territory is encroached upon by cotton plantations and refugee camps.
The general topography of the park is flat, with some areas of higher ground where deciduous woodland and savanna occur; these higher areas are often rocky with large termite mounds. About 66% of the area is considered shrubland, 15% is forest, while 17% has been modified by man. Gambela National Park also supports extensive areas of wet grassland and swamps where the native grasses grow over 3 metres in height.
The Gambela Park was established primarily to protect two species of endangered wetland antelopes: the white-eared kob and the Nile lechwe. Other wildlife reported as living here include populations of African elephants, African buffalo, Masai lion, African leopards, Sudan cheetahs, roan antelope, tiang, Lelwel hartebeest, olive baboon, and guereza monkey. Several birds only found in this area include the shoebill stork, the long-tailed paradise whydah and the red-throated and green bee-eaters.
Erta Ale (or Ertale or Irta’ale) is a continuously active basaltic shield volcano in the Afar Region of northeastern Ethiopia. It is situated in the Afar Depression, a badland desert area spanning the border with Eritrea. Erta Ale is the most active volcano in Ethiopia.
Erta Ale is 613 metres (2,011 ft) high, with one or sometimes two active lava lakes at the summit which occasionally overflow on the south side of the volcano. It is notable for holding the longest-existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century (1906). Volcanoes with lava lakes are very rare: there are only six in the world. Erta Ale means “smoking mountain” in the local Afar language and its southernmost pit is known locally as “the gateway to Hell”. In 2009, it was mapped by a team from the BBC using three-dimensional laser techniques, in order for the mapping team to maintain a distance and avoid the lakes’ searingly hot temperatures.
Erta Ale is centered over the East African Rift system, which is a triple junction setting whose movements are resulting in the formation of a pull-apart basin or rift. The volcano comprises mainly Mafic material which has been brought up to the surface caused by unroofing of the mantle due to this rift formation.
Not much is known about Erta Ale, as the surrounding terrain is some of the most inhospitable on Earth and the native Afar people have a legendary reputation for viciousness towards outsiders; one travel guide recommends hiring “one or maybe two armed guards or police” to visit Erta Ale. However, they welcomed and helped a team from BBC. On January 16, 2012, a group of German, Austrian and Hungarian scientists/tourists was attacked at Erta Ale. Five scientists/tourists were killed, some taken as hostages and others wounded. The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) claimed responsibility for the attack and released the two kidnapped tourists in March 2012.