Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia

Bale Mountains National Park is one of the Ethiopian national parks in the Bale Mountains and Sanetti Plateau of the Ethiopian highlands. Encompassing an area of approximately 2,150 square kilometers, the Afromontane habitats of the park have one of the highest incidences of the animal endemicity of any terrestrial habitat in the whole world. Bale Mountains National Park was established in 1970 and nominated to the World Heritage Tentative List in 2009.

The park is located in southeastern Ethiopia about 400 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa and 150 kilometers east of Shashamane in the Oromia Region National State. Its boundary lies within five districts of Adaba in the west, Dinsho in the north, Goba in the northeast, Delo-Mena-Angetu and Herena – Buluk in southwest. The Bale Mountains are part of the Bale – Arsi massif which forms the western section of the southeastern Ethiopian highlands.

The Bale Mountains which are the most important feature in Bale Mountains National Park were formed due to the formation of the Great Rift Valley from the lava outpourings which covered the underlying rock formations about 38 and 7 million years ago. The Bale Highlands are made up of the vast lava Sanetti plateau with at least six volcanic cones, where each is more than 4,200 meters high and flattened by the repeated glaciations. The mountains are a very important feature in the region since they attract a large amount of orographic rainfall which has improved livestock and agricultural production. About 600 – 1000 mm of rainfall fall in the lower altitude areas of the park and about 1000 – 1,400 mm fall in the areas of higher altitude and this water from the Bale massif helps more than 20 million people from different countries including Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia herself.

Vegetation of the park

Bale Mountains National Park is divided into five distinct vegetation; the Northern grasslands, the Northern woodlands, Afro-alpine Meadows, Erica Moorlands and the Harenna forest. The vegetation of the park ranges from the grassland areas around 3,000 meters to Mount Tullu Demtu which the second highest point in Ethiopia at 4,377 meters above the sea level. The park is encompassed by the East African pencil juniper trees and St. John’s wort, waist – high wildflowers and the grasses that grow in the Northern grasslands and woodlands. The Harenna forest plant community covers almost a half of the total area of the park with woodland of trees draped in moss and lichens that seem to drip off the branches.

Wildlife of the park

Bale Mountains National Park is a home to a number of threatened Ethiopian endemic species and it refuges about 26% of Ethiopia’s endemic species including one bovid, one primate, eight rodent species, one hare and the entire world’s population of the big – headed African mole rat. The park is also a habitat for several rare and endemic amphibians.

Mammal species in the park

Bale Mountains National Park is a home to a number of rare endangered mammal species including the Ethiopian wolf, Mountain Nyala, Manelik’s bushbuck, klipspringer, Abyssinian Bohor reedbuck, warthogs, and Bale mountains vervet, spotted hyena, serval and the common duiker. Almost one – third of the 47 mammal species in the park are Rodents. Other mammals in Bale Mountains National Park include the colobus monkey, lions, African leopards, African golden wolf, African wild dog and many others.

Bird species in the park

Bale Mountains National Park is a home to more than 282 species of birds where 16 of these are endemic to Ethiopia and over 170 are migratory. The park is a habitat to almost every highland Abyssinian and Ethiopian endemic. Among the birds in the park include the blue winged goose, the spot breasted lapwing, yellow fronted parrot, Abyssinian catbird, fawn breasted waxbill, Abyssinian owl, Ethiopian siskin, Abyssinian long claw, and many others.