As strict international travel restrictions grounded thousands of visitors heading to Africa in early 2020, tourism operators across the continent declared the year a write-off. The specter of empty rooms and safari vehicles struck lodge owners unable to serve even domestic tourists as internal lockdowns took effect. Dwindling earnings from wildlife tourism threaten to undermine decades of conservation work, particularly in places like Simien Mountains National Park, a U.N.
When African Wildlife Foundation designed its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization knew that focusing only on wildlife and wild lands would fall short of mitigating the ongoing crisis. Our decades of experience in conservation in Africa continue to show that even the best designed conservation programs do not succeed when the needs of the communities living near wildlife remain unaddressed.
Iconic mountains and an impressive array of wildlife.
With UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotted around the signature high central plateau and mountainous geography of Ethiopia, this country is an excellent destination for wildlife enthusiasts, adventure travelers, and tourists alike. The area contains 20 peaks that rise above 4,000 meters, including Ras Dashen in Simien Mountains National Park, which, at over 4,500 meters, is the country's highest peak and the third highest mountain in Africa.
When it comes to primate species with fascinating idiosyncrasies, geladas do not disappoint. These highland monkeys, also known as gelada baboons and bleeding-heart baboons, are highly social, occupying herds that are several hundred or even 1,000 strong. Found only in Ethiopia, this iconic species is a big tourism draw for Simien Mountains National Park, along with other endemic but threatened wildlife like the Ethiopian wolf and the Walia ibex.
To make the greatest conservation impact, AWF uses a range of strategies to protect species in priority landscapes. Though our work is organized around iconic wildlife such as elephants, rhinos, and large carnivores, we design our programs to benefit local human communities as well as all indigenous wildlife and habitats. Among the key species we focus on is one of the world’s rarest canids, the Ethiopian wolf.
Education is not only a systematic approach to gaining knowledge, but it is also a source of empowerment. The unfortunate reality is a high percentage of individuals in rural Africa do not have access to a quality education and are being left behind. The highest rate of out-of-school children exists in sub-Saharan Africa — 9 million girls and 6 million boys between the ages of 6 and 11 will never attend school. Marginalization consistently impedes the education of female and rural students in Africa.
With a plethora of endemic species of birds, mammals and plants, there’s no other place on Earth quite like Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park. The protected area encompasses more than 400 sq. km of mountains in the northern part of the country, including Ras Dejen, one of the highest peaks in all of Africa. It’s also the East African nation’s only natural World Heritage Site.
Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park is home to some of the world’s most unique and endangered wildlife, including one species of mountain goat (the Walia ibex) that is found exclusively in the park. Due to its exceptional beauty and endemic wildlife, Simien Mountains National Park was among the very first sites to be inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. It stands with places like Yellowstone National Park and the Galapagos Islands as one of the world’s greatest natural treasures.