The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Simien Mountains - Ethiopia

Map showing the location of the Simien Mountains National Park world heritage site in EthiopiaIn Danger Since 1996

Website Category:  Mountains

Area: 220 km2

Inscribed: 1978

Values:The Simien Mountains National Park includes one of the most dramatic mountain landscapes in Africa, and is home to some of the continent's rarest fauna and flora, including the endemic Walia ibex, Simien fox and Gelada baboon. The park covers the northern escarpment of an ancient mountain massif of igneous basalts, deeply cut by forested gorges and sheer cliffs, some 1,500m high. The Park was one of the first four sites to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978, but has been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 1996 because of a decline in the population of the Walia ibex due to human settlement, grazing, agriculture and road construction. The ibex population is now on the increase but the Ethiopian wolf remains extremely rare.  The Ethiopian authorities are currently working on a plan to extend the site to include more of the critical habitat for these highly endangered species.


Slideshow of the Simien Mountains National Park/ world heritage site.


Impressions (based on a visit in October 2005): The scenery is stunning, and the wildlife (plants and animals) quite extraordinary. Hiking along the top of the escarpment, with its stunning views, is an exhilarating experience which a rapidly growing number of visitors are discovering.

Management challenges: It is a credit to the management authorities that any of the remarkable fauna has survived, given the history of war and famine which has plagued the area, and the enormous human pressures still affecting the world heritage site. Estimates of the number of people living within this small park vary from around 3,000 to 11,000, and it is clear that they are having a major impact on the environment through poorly managed cultivation, livestock husbandry, and activities such as tree cutting for firewood. The principal large mammals survive along the cliffs, making use of highly inaccessible refuge areas. Support from the Swiss and Austrian governments in recent years has helped engage communities in conservation activities, including tree planting and ecotourism development - but these welcome initiatives need to be taken very much further if the future of the site is going to be secured. People need to be offered sufficiently attractive terms to voluntarily move out of the park; a major road needs to be re-aligned; and the park needs to be extended to include critical habitat for the endangered Walia ibex. All these recommendations have been on the table for years, but the financial resources and political will to implement them have been lacking.


Trekking Map & Visitor's Guide to the Simien Mountains National ParkVisitor Information and Trekking Guide:  The best available information for visitors to the Simien Mountains is the 1:100,000 special trekking map developed by the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Berne under a Swiss-funded development project in 2003.  As this is now difficult to obtain in hardcopy, the guide and sections of the map are made available in pdf format by clicking here.  The text describes each stage of the main route from Debark town through to Buyit Ras, Sankaber, Gich Camp, Chennek and onwards to Ras Dejen, Ethiopia's highest peak. It provides information on preparations for trekking, a code of conduct for visitors and descriptions of the main attractions along each stage of the route. The map section includes detailed information for visitors, including trekking times for different stages, contour information, trails and visitor facilities as well as highlighting the most likely places to observe some of the iconic wildlife species - Walya Ibex, Simen Foxes and Gelada Baboons.



Maps & Satellite images of Simien Mountains National ParkMAPS & SATELLITE IMAGES:  A selection of maps and Google Earth satellite images showing the main features of the Simien National Park and surrounding area is available by clicking here.  This portfolio includes important sections of topographic maps from the University of Berne's superb trekking map, a regional map indicating road access routes and general location information. Satellite coverage is good and Google Earth perspectives over the mountains and escarpment are extraordinarily 'real'.  A series of satellite images in this portfolio traces the route of the 'standard' 3-4 day trekking route through the park from Buhit Ras via Sankaber, Gich, Imet Gogo and Chennek to the high point on Bwahit Pass.  Take a look!

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Links to other world heritage mountains:  uKhalhamba-Drakensberg  I  Kilimanjaro  I  Mount Kenya  I  Rwenzori  I  Mount Nimba

Links: Google Earth | UNEP-WCMC Site Description |Official UNESCO Site Details | Birdlife IBA   

The Walia ibex, one of the rarest mammals of Africa survives only around the Simien Mountains National Park world heritage site in Ethiopia Amhara shepherd boys are a common sight the Simien Mountains National Park world heritage site in Ethiopia Tourism is developing rapidly in the Simien Mountains National Park world heritage site in Ethiopia Gelada baboons are endemic to the Ethiopian highlands, with large troops occupying the clifftops of the Simien Mountains National Park world heritage site in Ethiopia



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