Established in 1969, Simien National Park is currently listed as one of the World Heritage Site in Danger by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The park was one of the first four sites to be inscribed as World Heritage Site in 1978 before becoming a heritage site in danger in 1996. The main reason behind the listing of the site as one which is in danger will be heavy settlement by farmers and declining numbers Walia ibex. Simien National Park is located in northern Ethiopia on the Amhara plateau and covers a total area of 23200 ha. Research shows that the park was created due to a massive erosion of the Ethiopian plateau which contributed to the deep valleys and jagged mountain peaks.Over the years, the park has undergone numerous changes which include the closing of the park for a period of 17 years from 1983 to 1999 due to a civil war.
Simien National Park is an important place to preserve because of its richness in diversity. In terms of fauna, the park is refuge to extremely rare animals like the Ethiopian wolf, gelada baboon and the walia ibex. Overall, the park contains a total of 21 species of mammals, of which 7 of them are endemic. This includes the Ethiopian Wolf which is the rarest canid in the world, estimated to have a population of just 71 in and around the park in 2005. In addition, the list of animals in the park will include the gelada baboon, colobus monkey, leopard, wild cat, bush pig and the walia ibex. Besides mammals, birds also flourish in the park. Studies show that thre are over 400 bird species in the park such as the wattled ibis, black-winged love bird, thickbilled raven and the Ruppell’s Chat. In terms of flora, Simien National Park has four different belts of vegetation. This consists of the Afromontanae Forest, Hypericum Woodland, Afromontanae Grassland and Afro-alpine moorland with a wide variety of plant species. For example, species below 3000m include the syzygium guineense and juniperus procera. Meanwhile species which can be found above 3800m will include the giant lobelia, torch lily and the African rose. Besides these, other plants that can be found include the coarse tussock grasses, cligg-hanging herbs and rumex nervosus etc.
With the huge diversity in flora and fauna, one can expect extremely intricate bio-interrelations among the life forms in Simien National Park. On the first level, the ecosystem in the reserve is important for the survival of the organisms found in the reserve. Plants depend on the animals for pollination and nutrition. Animals depend on each other for food. Animals also depend on plants for food, water and shelter. For example, the Ethiopian Wolf depends on the rodent prey in the tufted grass habitat in order to survive. In addition, the Walia Ibex depends on the bushes, herbs, lichens and creepers in the park for survival. A disruption in the ecosystem can bring about much harm to the organisms in the habitat. For example, 25% of the Afro-alpine vegetation was overgrazed in 1996 which greatly affected those who depended on the grass for survival. Furthermore, there are other important resources in the park of which other organisms depend on for survival. For example, the Simen Mountains also form an important part of the Tekeze River Basin which is used downstream for irrigation.
Such an important habitat and ecosystem however has faced numerous threats by human behaviors. First, heavy settlements of farmers have led to deforestation of the area where lands have been cleared for agricultural cultivation. This threatens the habitat of the organisms in the park and affects their food source. Next, the increase in human activities and construction of roads has resulted in air, land, and water pollution which greatly threatens the survival of organisms in the park. For example, contaminated water can result in deaths of animals that drink the water and animals which live in the water. In addition, illegal poaching and hunting is also another source of human intrusions in the area which has resulted in the decline of the population of animals in the park. Furthermore, non-native animals introduced by humans into the habitat compete with the native animals for food and this disrupts the ecosystem and also contributes to the decline in population of the native animals. The livestock also transmit diseases to the native animals which threatens the survival of the organisms in the park. These human actions greatly threaten the biodiversity in the area.
Given that Simien National Park is an important place which hosts such a wide diversity of organisms, it is important that we come out with effective methods to conserve the place. The park is currently managed by the Amhara Parks Development and Protection Authority of the Amharan National Regional State Government. Protections which exist and continue to safeguard the area include attempts to increase public awareness on the destruction of the Simien National Park. Also, research and facilities have been provided to monitor and study habit conservation and the important species of the flora and fauna in the park. Laws have also been enacted to evict people out of the park and prohibiting any use of the park’s resources to reduce the negative effects of human activities. Last but not least, the Austrian Development Cooperation is funding a six year project which include introducing of new crops and plants and setting up of a animal health clinic to prevent transmission of livestock diseases to native animals.
Efforts have also been made to further add on to the conservation of the area. Plans have been made to extend the park to include bordering mountains so that the animals and organisms can be better protected. In addition, Boundaries have also been set up to limit human population and grazing by livestock so as to better preserve the habitats. However, I feel that more can be done to insure the preservation of Simien National Park. First, I would propose the use of tracing tools which can be injected into the animals to track down the animal population and keep track of the numbers so that actions can be taken to prevent these animals and other organisms from going extinct. Next, technology can be harnessed to artificially breed the animals and increase their population so that they would not become extinct. Lastly, education can also be provided to increase awareness to the people living in the area on how their actions could lead to drastic consequences so as to reduce human activities with negative impacts on the park.
It is crucial that all the efforts and plans be put in place and maintained so as to ensure the preservation and conservation of Simien National Park. If intrusion goes unchecked, the results will be dire and hard to resolve. Human activities with negative externalities will continue and this will cause animals like the ibex and Ethiopian Wolf to become extinct. This will result in a loss of biodiversity and our future generations will no longer have the chance to see such animals. Besides animals, the wide range of plant species in Simien National Park will also be destroyed. Pollution created by human activities will cause the plant species to die out. Livestock brought in by farmers will also overgraze the plants and contribute to the extinction of the plants. This also means that native animals which are herbivores will be indirectly harmed as well. Likewise, the dying out of plants will mean a loss in diversity and we may no longer be able to produce goods and products which require input of certain plants. Furthermore, when intrusion goes unchecked, other resources in the park will also be impacted. For example, human activities can contribute to the pollution of the water of the Tekeze River. This means that the water from the river will no longer be suitable for farming and the lack of water for irrigation can reduce the food source for humans. Also, when the water gets contaminated, animals in the water and animals which depend on the river for water will be reduced and this results in a fall in diversity. As such, this explains why Simien National Park is listed as one of the World Heritage Sites in Danger because of the threats by humans and the need to conserve the area so that the level of biodiversity can be maintained.
Simien Mountains National Park Ethiopia. (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2009, from United Nations Environment Programme: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/pdf/Simien.pdf
Simien National Park. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2009, from UNESCO: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/9/