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Heineken partners with Wildlife Conservation Authority

Heineken Breweries Share Company and the Ethiopian wildlife Conservation Authority has signed a memorandum of understanding to financially support the Simien mountain National Park in Gonder to increase the number of Walia’s,a wild goat variety which is endemic to Ethiopia,and currently in the “endangered animals list.”

The Walia Ibex, animal from which Ethiopia’s national team got its name, lives in the rocky hills of the Semen Mountains, a popular site with tourist.

Following the agreement, the first phase of the support was held on Wednesday,August 21, 2019 at Siemen Mountain National Park with a campaign named “Walia saves Walia”.

The Unique wildlife and breath-taking green views on a landscape shaped by nature and traditional agriculture makes one say “This is paradise.”On the other hand, the traditional lifestyle of the rural population and their survival in a rather harsh climate (in negatives) and with scarce natural resources is very impressive.

Simien (North) Mountain National Park, with its undulating plateau and deep valleys, is located on the western side of the Simien Mountains and is located 830 km from Addis Ababa, the capital, which is often dubbed the Grand Canyon of Africa.

The park which is abundant with wildlife and plants was established as a national park in 1969 and was one of the very first sites to be made a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1978.

Inscribed in the World Heritage List,Abebaw Azenaw,general manager of the Ethiopian wild life conservation authority told The Reporter that the site was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1996 due to roads going across it, excessive cattle grazing, a drop in Walia ibex, red fox and other large mammal populations,human settlement, cultivation, soil erosion, frequent fires in the tree heather forest, agricultural and pastoral activities including cultivation of a significant area of the property.

“Particularly it has severely affected the natural value of the property, including the critical habitats of the Walia ibex and the Ethiopian wolf.”“Following this, the number of Walia has decreased to 150 from the thousands and the red fox to 20 dwindling from the hundreds. But with measures taken by the community and the government, it is getting better with three years of hard work,”Abebaw said adding,“After all this, the number of walia has increased to 900,the red fox to 130 and the gelada baboons to 20,000.

However, in 2017,the World Heritage Committee decided to remove Simien National Park from the list of World Heritage in danger, in recognition of improvements in its management and measures taken to reduce overgrazing and visitor’s impact.

The park is home to rare species such as the gelada baboon, the Ethiopian wolf and Walia ibex. It also includes mammals like leopard, caracal, wild cats, spotted hyena and jackals and it is a shelter for large herbivores like Menilik bush buck.

Covering 412 square km, the park has 5 woredas which are aderkay, debarek,tselemet,beyeda and janamora.This 5 woredas consists of 42 kebele and millions of people living around the area.

A road, which cuts through the park, runs from Debarq, a junction town for the national park, 100 km from Gondar. The 100km drive from Gondar to Debark takes up to two hours. The park entrance gate is at Buy it Ras, 14 km east of Debark which isthe closest camp to Debark.The park gatei s known as Sankaber Camp which stands at an altitude of 3,250 m.Situated on an altitude of 3,600m, Gich Camp is found next to Sankaber,which is a good place to look for gelada baboons.Then there is Chennek Camp (3,620m), where you can find the park’s highest density of Walia ibex.For travellers heading to east of Ras Dejen (situated at an altitude of 4533 m), is the tallest mountain in Ethiopia and fifth highest anywhere in Africa.

Explaining about the parks protection,Abebaw said that “The Park is protected by scouts or rangers, and there are 18 scout camps in the park. Every camp has an average of 4 scouts.”

“The management of the national parks effectively protects the representative species of parks and works closely with local residents to reduce the pressure on park resources by expanding arable land and natural resources,” he further explained.

According to him, from the 32,400 international tourists, they have gained 7 million birr from park entrance fees in the 2018/19 fiscal year.

Fekadu Beshah external relations and sustainability manager at Heineken breweries S.C. said that,“This campaign mainly focuses on park conservation activities including planting endogenous trees in the park that are considered as walias feed and purchase of uniform for community scouts that are assigned to control illegal hunting.”

On the launch event of the campaign, journalists took part in planting trees in the park.

Following the call from the prime minister for the green legacy initiative, more than 35,000 trees were planted in the park.