|View of Simien National Park from Plateau|
We were lucky. The week before had been cold and misty but this week was clear with almost no one on the roads. Our arrival corresponded with the end of the rainy season but before dry season when tourists arrive to backpack through mountains and gorges. Our van simply stopped by the side of the road leaving us to walk across the mountain side, sometimes on a trail but often through grass fields.
|Herd of Gelada Baboons in Simien National Park|
|Herd of Gelada Baboons follow leader|
Behind this stunning setting is a more complicated political balancing act. Created in 1969, the Simien National Park was also designated a World Heritage Site in 1978. As such, it is followed closely out of concern for rare birds and animals but also for overgrazing by sheep, goats, and other livestock brought into the park. With 600 households or 3200 people residing in the park and another 1500 around the edges, over harvesting of natural resources and agricultural expansion are also problems.
|Two Local Soldiers hired to Accompany tourist group|
Tourism is rising as more discover this beautiful but fragile part of the world. There was a tenfold increase in numbers over the last 15 years, bringing more revenue for those who provide pack animals, guides, etc. A Tourism Master Plan was approved in 2007 to help prepare and direct the movement. It is being monitored by the World Heritage Organization that still rates the park as EN or endangered because of the high risk of extinction of the Ethiopian Fox and Walia Ibex.
It seemed an African National Park Ranger must be part conservationist, botanist, zoologist, mechanic and diplomat, not to mention resourceful and creative. They are charged with protecting rare animals, birds and plant life with limited budgets while convincing locals of the need to cooperate. Visitors also challenge rules established to protect the environment. All this was obvious on our visit to the Simien National Park where we found a commitment to preserve the setting with local involvement. We can only hope for their success.