Bale Mountains National Park
The Bale Mountains National Park is located in southeastern Ethiopia, 400 km southeast of Addis Ababa and 150 km east of Shashamene in the Oromia Regional National State. It belongs to the Bale-Arsi massif, which forms the western section of the southeastern highlands. The boundary of the BMNP lies within five woredas: Adaba (west), Dinsho (north), Goba (northeast), Delo-Mena-Angetu and Harena-Buluk (southeast). The park area is encompassed within geographical coordinates of 6º29′ – 7º10’N and 39º28′ – 39º57’E.
Nominated in 2009 to the World Heritage Tentative List, Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) is a national park in Ethiopia with one of the highest incidences of animal endemicity of any terrestrial habitat in the world. The Park encompasses an area of approximately 2,150 km2, and is divided into five distinct and unique habitats: the Northern Grasslands (Gaysay Valley), Northern Woodlands (Park Headquarters), Afro-alpine Meadows (Sanetti Pleateau), Erica Moorlands, and the Harenna Forest. The park is known for being home to the largest populations of both the endemic and endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) and Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), as well as the endemic Bale monkey (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) and giant mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus). The endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus once existed in the Park (with relict packs reported in the 1990s), but may now be extirpated due to human population pressures in this region.
The Bale Mountains are a land of endemism and a critically important area for a number of threatened Ethiopian endemics. Bale Mountains National Park is home to 20 Ethiopian endemic mammals as well as five mammals that are only found in the Bale Mountains. Mammals of paramount importance in BMNP include the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), mountain nyala, giant mole rat and Bale monkey. The Afro-alpine area is home to over half of the global population of Ethiopian wolf, the rarest canid in the world: there are just 400 remaining. The northern Juniper-Hagenia woodlands harbor the largest population of the endemic and similarly endangered mountain nyala, estimated to be approximately two-thirds of the global population. Furthermore, the entire population the giant mole rat and most of the Bale monkey population are contained within the park. There are also 12 Ethiopian endemic amphibians and four Ethiopian endemic reptiles living in BMNP.
The Ethiopian wolf is restricted to just six isolated mountaintop areas of the Ethiopian highlands. With a total world population of approximately 400 individuals, the Ethiopian wolf is the most endangered carnivore in Africa and most endangered canid in the world. As a result it is legally protected in the country from any activities that may threaten its survival. Habitat loss, caused by unsustainable and rapidly expanding cattle and crop farming is the most severe underlying threat, but diseases (rabies and canine distemper) transmitted from domestic dogs are a serious immediate threat and have recently caused population crashes in the Bale Mountains.
Additionally, the park holds 26% of Ethiopia’s endemic species including one primate, one bovid, one hare, eight species of rodent, and the entire global population of the giant mole rat. There are also several rare and endemic amphibians, and two reptiles found only in Bale.
Almost one third of the 47 mammals that live in BMNP are rodents. The rodent community, particularly of the Afro-alpine plateau are keystone species in the Bale Mountains National Park. They are the main prey for Ethiopian wolf, and natural grazers of the Afro-alpine areas where important cryoturbation processes happen.
Other mammals of BMNP include the endemic Menelik’s bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, grey duiker, warthog, golden jackal, spotted hyena, serval, colobus monkey, lion, leopard, and African wild dog.
Bale Mountains National Park is home to 1,321 species of flowering plants, 163 of which are endemic to Ethiopia (12%), and 23 to Bale alone (14% of Ethiopia’s endemic plants).
The forests of the Bale Mountains are important for genetic stocks of wild forest coffee (Coffea arabica) and for medicinal plants in Ethiopia. Three medicinal plant hotspots have been identified: two in the Gaysay area and one in the Angesu area, spanning the park boundary. The female flowers of Hagenia contain anthelmintic, which is used to cure humans from tapeworms among the local populations. St. John’s Wort is used to combat depression.