Ethiopia: Creating a Safe Haven for Wildlife

Ethiopia has a number of national parks that have greater economic benefits and environmental importance. To mention few, the Semien, Bale, Mago, Gambella, Omo, Nech Sar, Chebera Churchura and Borena Sayint are some among others.

These parks are home to several plant and wildlife species found only in Ethiopia including species such as the Walia Ibex, the Ethiopian Wolf, and the Gelada (a species of monkey,) Cheetah, lion, civet, serval, African bush elephant, bushpig, gazelle, antelope, reedbuck, Somali wild ass, Grévy's zebra, hyena, baboon and others.

Alatish National Park is also the other park established recently and home for various animals.

Located in Quara woreda of Northern Gondar Zone in the Amhara State, the park was established in 2006 and derives its name from the Alatish River that has its source in the park and flows in a westerly direction to the Sudan.

The Park, that covers an area of 266,570 hectares of land, shares its boundaries in the south with Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, in the west with the Sudan, in the east with Bembaho Kebele, in the northeast with Gelego Kebele and in the north with Mahdid Kebele.

Landscape at Alatish is flat with elevation ranging from 520 to 920 meter above sea level. There are a few hills in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the area. The twin mountains of Amdog are a special feature in the southwestern corner of the park.

The soils of Alatish are composed of sand and gravel. Some sections of the area have bedrocks that impede the infiltration of water into the aquifer. These areas provide suitable habitat for seasonal wetlands, which in turn are productive habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife.

Agro-ecologically, the park is classified as dry kola with annual rainfall ranging between 500-1500 mm. The boundaries of the park were defined in 1998 but were redefined with the participation of local communities in 2004. The vegetation of the park is classified as Combretum-Terminalia broad-leaved deciduous woodland. Dominant grass species include Cymbopogon spp., Hyperhenia filipendula, Echinochloa sp, Pennisetum spp.

The park is a safe haven for nearly 26 larger mammals (excluding rodents) and 143 recorded bird species.

Alatish is found in an arid and semi-arid ecological zone. It forms an eco-tone between the high mountains of the Simen and the Sahel zone in the Sudan. As a result, the biological attributes of the park are believed to be diverse and rich.

As Kassegn Berhanu stated in his research paper titled, Opportunities and Challenges for Community Based Ecotourism Development: The Case of Alatish National Park; Northwest Ethiopia, there are many historically and culturally important potential tourist attractions near Alatish National Park.

Among these are Tewedros's birthplace (Tewedros Ketema), Emperor Tewedros' cave, the baobab tree of Haile Selassie, the cemetery sites of Abrham Deboch and Moges Asigidom, Mahibere Silassie Monastery, the town of Metema Yohaness, churches and monasteries, such as Diza Mariyam, Tekilehayimanot Washa, and the Monastery of Wefta Giyogis Chergie Maryam.

The ethnic composition of the area made up of Felata and Gumuz communities are the other important tourist attractions.

In addition, the park is believed to conserve a major proportion of Sahelian and Sudan-Guinea biome birds and other organisms. It serves as a migratory route for elephants, which traverse from Dinder National Park in the Sudan.

The other recently established national park is Gerale National Park.

Gerale National Park, (also called Gerale National Park) is a new park and it lies in Liben Zone in the Southwest part of the Somali National Regional State, in the eastern part of Moyale Woreda, 900 km southeast of Addis Ababa and 120 km northeast of Moyale.

The park covers around 38,580 hectares of land. The area encompasses what used to be previously known as the Borana Controlled Hunting Area in Southern Ethiopia.

The Park was proposed to conserve various savannah wildlife including rare animals like, giraffe, African Elephant and even the Black Rhinoceros. Although local people claim to have seen the latter visits to the area have proved otherwise.

At least 36 species of larger mammals have been identified including bats. Major wildlife conserved includes Beisa Oryx, Grant's Gazelle, Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, and Guenther's Dikdik, Avifauna is rich as well and a provisional list for the area has 164 recorded species.

With regard to plants, mostly the vegetation composition is made up of small trees and shrubs, which are 3-4 m in height. The dominant species include Acacia mellifera, Acacia oerfata, Acacia brevispica and several species of Comifora species.

The area is also characterized by grassland, open shrub land, dense shrub land, dense bush land, wooded grassland and riparian woodland/bush land. The dominant grass species include Ischamum species and Chrysopogon species. The area is generally rich in floral diversity as in the case of other parts of the Somali-Massai biome-East African evergreen vegetation type.

As sources indicate, this park was proposed by the Somali National Regional state, although it is now under the supervision of Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), to conserve unique assemblage of wildlife in the Somali-Massai Biome.

This Biome covers large tracts of land in Ethiopia and the park is known to harbor few Elephants, Hunting Dog, Cheetah and Giraffe. It provides haven for several antelope species. The most prolific antelopes are Guenther's Dikdik, Beisa Oryx, Grant's Gazelles, Gerenuk and Lesser Kudu. Amongst birds, the endemic white-tailed Swallow has been recorded here.

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