Simien National Park: Home to some endangered species

Africa Zainab Sulaimon
Roaming
Simien Natinal Park
Close up of an adult Gelada monkey Theropithecus gelada in Simien mountains national park, Ethiopia. Photo : Dreamstime

Animals are liable to face extinction due to deforestation, hunting by humans, excessive fishing, nitrogen pollution, climate change and species that are prominent. A lot of measures are put in place by organizations and countries to protect endangered species. In Ethiopia, the Simien National Park is special because it is home to some endangered species of animals like the Walia Ibex, Simien Fox, Gelada Baboon and the Lammergeier (bearded vulture).

About the Park

Simien is situated in the north of Ethiopia and was established in 1969 in an area inhabited by humans. It is notable for its mountains, varying vegetation, from grassland to bushes and trees. The Simien National park has a striking landscape, most of which is as a result of massive erosion over the years that has erected jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys, gorges and sharp cliffs dropping some 1500m.

Endangered Wildlife of Simien National Park

The Walia Ibex:

These wild mountain goats are found only in Ethiopia (primarily in Simien) and nowhere else in the world. One of the reasons the park was granted a heritage site is because it contains the last pack of this beautiful creation.

The Gelada Baboon:

This baboon is also known, locally, as the Chilada, the bleeding heart monkey, or the Lion monkey (because it is so hairy). It has a distinctive and bold red patch on its chest that changes color according to its mood. The Geladas are the most common of the endangered in the Simien mountains, numbering about a thousand or more.

The Simien Fox:

Also known as the Ethiopian wolf (it is actually a wolf but its features resembles that of a Fox and a Coyote), the Simien fox is a very scarce canid in the world and it has become so rare and close to extinction. A tourist in Simien National Park would be lucky to find one on his tour of the area.

Some distinctive features of the park

Simien National Park

Simien National Park. Photo : Dreamstime

  • Altitude is 4000m above sea level. It includes the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Degen. This is really tall (no jokes) and it is so close to the skies.
  • It has a number of beautiful deep gorges.
  • It contains a medley of flowers and various biota.
  • More than 180 bird species can be found and 6 are native to Simien.

Preservation of Simien National Park

Simien became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978. The human settlement, cultivation, and soil erosion posed a threat to the park, as about 80% of it was utilized by humans. Fortunately, extensions have been carried out to protect the remaining population of the endangered species. This has enabled boundaries that are trivial to human settlement.

Tourism

The Simien mountains are one of Africa’s wildest and most beautiful mountain ranges, one of the major highlands in Africa, and it boasts of snow and ice on the highest points. It is best to visit the Simien mountains during the dry season (to avoid a fall when trekking) because of the uneven pathways and the slippery floors. The temperature during the day is usually about 20 degrees Celsius but it drops to about minus 10 degrees at night. It is therefore rarely hot during the day, on the mountains, and tourists are advised to take coats along when visiting (even during the dry season). Trekking is a popular activity lasting 3-7 days or more, on varying routes.

The Walia Ibex can be spotted in Simien National Park between the mountains at about 2,500-4000m. The baboons live peacefully at the very top of the mountains, protected from predators by high precipices. In order to see them, you have to be bold enough to get to the Ras Degen (considered the highest point of Ethiopia). A good tip to get a nice picture with them is to be fearless because they are very gentle creatures. They should, however, not be approached in large groups and one should not try to pet them.

Visitation to the Simien Mountains is rarely a day’s journey. Accommodation can, therefore, be found either inside the park (tukel lodges, camps or DIYs) or outside the park (the luxurious Limalimo lodging). The entrance fee and guide fee varies according to the number of days to be spent and the number of people visiting.

This is a must-visit should you ever find yourself in Ethiopia!