The Simen Mountains National Park is no more the world heritage endanger property

The Simen Mountains National Park is no more the world heritage endanger property

The Simien Mountains National Park (SMNP) of northern Ethiopia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). It was registered in UNESCO as WHS in recognition of its outstanding natural beauty and rich biodiversity. The park harbors two of the world’s most threatened mammals; Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf as well as the endemic and viable population the Chelada Baboon and Menilk bushbuck. Besides, the park is known for its afro-alpine and sub-afro-alpine ecosystem which deserve strong attention for its conservation

The park was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1978. Despite the initial promising park development in its first decade, the civil war, which ended in 1991, prevented any further management and development and curtailed efforts to resettle inhabitants.  Since that time, lack of resources and technical expertise further limited efforts to implement good management and reduce the threats to the area.

By 1996, UNESCO reactive Mission came to the country to evaluate the status of the SMNP. During the time the wildlife populations had highly declined (less than 300 Walia Ibex and few number of Ethiopian wolf) and some 4500 people were living inside the small park and with a further 30,000 people immediately in the vicinity. The park’s resources were being degraded by uncontrolled use (overgrazing, cultivation). Besides, the park is very small (136km2) and highly fragmented. Owing to these condition and based on the reactive mission report  the world Heritage committees (UNESCO) decided that the simien mountains national park  inscribed on the list of “world Heritage in danger “ in 1996. 

Depletion of the Walia ibex population, Ethiopian wolf and of other large mammals; human Encroachment; livestock grazing and Agricultural expansion; and Impacts of road crossing the park are the major threats of the park identified by the mission.  Accordingly, to mitigate these threats UNESCO at its 30th session of the world heritage committee a number of bench marks (correction measures) had been adopted to be addressed by the state party.  These includes Re-demarcation and expansion of the park area; its gazetment in the national law; develop visible grazing pressure reduction strategy (GPRS)and ensure its implementation to significantly reduce the impact of livestock grazing; and develop a strategy and action plan, to support the development of alternative livelihoods for the people living within and outside the park and realignment of the road outside the park.

Currently, with the great effort made by Govrnemnt and development partners (especially the bilateral Austrian Development cooperation) all the major corrective measures mentioned above have been addressed. The SMNP was re-demarcated and  expanded from 136km2 to 412km2 and finally gazeted in the national law;  GPRS is developed and it is under implmeentaion;; more than 606 house holds had been voluntarily relocated  a number of Livelihood Improvement Strategies(LIS) had been developed and implemented for the former relocated community and currently the development of  LIS is underway; the realignment of the road outside the park is under construction and the population of walia ibex and other larger mammals population has shown increment. This has been confirmed by the recent (2017) IUCN reactive mission and then the 41st world heritage committee meeting held in Poland Krakow has decided that the simen mountains national park to be no longer a “world heritage endangered” property.

The removal of the SMNP from the world heritage endangered list is a great reward for the local communities who paid a lot for the natural resources conservation. It is also a great reward for regional and local leaders, wildlife experts who had been committed in addressing the tough benchmarks for the last two decades.  It is also a great achievement to be used as model /exemplary to manage the conservation problems of other similar protected areas in the country. Besides, the achievement will have positive triggering effects on other regional and local leaders so as to manage the conservational problems of their respective protected areas.

The Authority together with the ministry of Culture and tourism and other development partners is preparing to organize a national event to celebrate  ormemorize the removal of the SMNP from the “world heritage in daggered list”. The occasion will be very good opportunity to appreciate and greet those institutions, organizations, individuals, regional and local leaders who have special contribution in addressing the tough benchmarks set by UNESCO in SMNP. Besides, the event will be used to mobilize the public on the importance of the national park for the well being of local people, the country and future generation as a whole.

source; (Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority)



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