You are standing on the roof of Africa - birds of prey soar high above and the endemic Ethiopian wolf, Africa’s rarest carnivore and the world’s rarest canid, hunts for rodents nearby. This is the Sanetti Plateau: the largest continuous area of its altitude on the entire continent of Africa. The Sanetti Plateau is just one of three distinct and unique habitats of the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP). To the west the Harenna Escarpment drops rapidly from 4,000 meters to 2,000 meters over a distance of just eight kilometers into the untouched and unexplored Harenna Forest. The Harenna Forest is the largest patch of forest in Ethiopia and the only cloud forest in the country, containing stocks of Ethiopia’s famous wild forest coffee, and the elusive and endangered black forest lion. To the north lies the smallest area of the park: the Gaysay Grasslands, home to the endemic and endangered mountain nyala, as well as many endemic birds. Rated by the African Bird Club as the number four birding site in Africa, the Bale Mountains are home to over 280 species of birds – 6 of which are endemic to Ethiopia and 12 to the Abyssinian Highlands.
Habitats of the Bale Mountains National Park range from grassland areas around 3,000 meters above sea level, to the second highest point in Ethiopia: Tulu Dimtu at 4,377 meters above sea level. The park area is 2,200 km2. Surrounded by Juniper trees and St. John’s Wort, waist-high wildflowers and grasses sprout in the northern grasslands and woodlands. The Afro-alpine moorlands of the Sanetti Plateau are carpeted in lichen covered rocks, punctuated by giant lobelia that stand tall and proud at heights of up to 12 meters. The Plateau is also dotted with alpine lakes and streams, providing important ecosystem services as well as wintering and passage stations for rare and endemic birds. The Harenna Forest is the largest part of the park, a fairytale wood of giant trees draped in moss and lichens that seem to drip off the branches. The area is frequently cloaked in mysterious fogs, and wildlife is elusive here.
Bale Mountains National Park is home to 14 species of endemic mammals; those of paramount importance include the Ethiopian wolf, mountain nyala, giant molerat and Bale monkey. There are less than 400 wolves remaining in the wild, over half of which reside within the Park. Originally established to protect the mountain nyala, BMNP is home to over 60% of the population. Furthermore, the entire population the giant molerat and most of the Bale monkey population are contained within the park. There are also 12 endemic amphibians and four endemic reptiles living in BMNP.
Bale Mountains National Park is faced with many threats associated with an ever developing and an increasingly populated Ethiopia. One of the biggest threats to the park is grazing. For example, within the Web Valley, a prime Ethiopian wolf habitat, cattle density is estimated at 250 per square kilometer. Other threats include increasing settlements within the park. Currently over 40,000 people live within the park’s boundaries, increasing pressure on the natural resources of the area and diminishing natural habitats of wild animals. With these settlements come domestic dogs, which pose a great threat to the Ethiopian wolf. Dogs transmit rabies and canine distemper, and in 2010 killed 106 individuals (approximately 40% of the Bale population). Other serious threats include the use of the wolf habitat by livestock for grazing which significantly reduces the availability of rodent prey. FZS works to exclude livestock from key wolf habitats. Over 12 million people, their livestock and the environment in the south of Ethiopia as well as neighboring Somalia rely on the water that originates from the Bale massif. Unsustainable use and pollution are major threats. Conservationists suggest that if conservation efforts in the Bale Mountains are not successful and people continue to exploit the resources in an unsustainable way, more species of mammal would go extinct than any other area of equivalent size on the planet.Link To All Threats Stories
The main goal is to rehabilitate Bale Mountains National Park, and to develop the capacity of the wildlife management authority to effectively and efficiently continue to manage the Park in perpetuity.
- 1899 to 1901: German naturalist and explorer Carlo Von Erlanger visits Bale Mountains and documents existence of giant molerat.
- 1901: French explorer Viscompte du Bourg spends two months in Goba, hunting elephant in the south.
- 1950s: Finnish geographer Helmer Smels makes three journeys to Bale noting that elephants no longer exist in the area. He also notes the use of the Sanetti Plateau for grazing by local people
- 1950s: British botanist Herbert Mooney visits the Harenna Forest and Sanetti Plateau and notes a growing settlement of honey gatherers near the Harenna Forest.
- 1960s: Belgian sheep farmer Mr. B.N. Weerts obtains 400 square kilometers of land within the Gaysay Valley. This eventually becomes the nucleus for the current park headquarters.
- 1963 to 1965: British naturalist Dr. Leslie Brown visits Bale to assess the status of the mountain nyala. He recommends a national park be established to protect them.
- Late 1960s: John Blower, advisor to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation, surveys the area with a Peace Corps volunteer and proposes boundaries for the park.
- 1969: Bale Mountains National Park is established.