Bale Mountains national park

Bale Mountains National Park is a national park in Ethiopia. The park encompasses an area of approximately 2,150 km2 (830 sq miles) in the Bale Mountains and Sanetti Plateau of the Ethiopian Highlands.

The park’s Afromontane habitats has more species unique to this ecosystem than almost anywhere else. 

Bale Mountains National Park is located in south-eastern Ethiopia, 400 km southeast of Addis Ababa and 150 km east of Shashamene in the Oromia Region National State. The Bale Mountains are part of the Bale-Arsi massif, which forms the western section of the south-eastern Ethiopian Highlands.

The Bale Mountains play a vital role in climate control of the region by attracting large amounts of orographic rainfall, which has obvious implications for livestock and agricultural production. Some 600 – 1,000 mm fall annually in the lower altitude areas, while 1,000 – 1,400 mm fall in areas of higher altitude, and over 12 million people from Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are dependent on water from the Bale massif. As s result, a total of 40 rivers rise in this area, contributing to five major rivers: the Web, Wabe Shebele, Welmel, Dumal and Ganale. Additionally, the Bale massif is the source for many springs in the lowlands, which are of paramount importance as they are the only source of water year-round. People living south of the national park are completely dependent on good management of the water resources from the highland areas. If the flow of these rivers is altered in any way – through deforestation, overgrazing of pastures and/or over abstraction for irrigation (all of which are occurring at present) – a highland/lowland imbalance results with loss of perennial water in the lowlands. This imbalence means that there is extreme pressure on areas of the country which get plenty of rain.

There is already evidence that over abstraction of water in the Bale Mountains is occurring, and if true, this should be dealt with, as a compete emptying of the underground aquafer could have implications for humans and wildlife alike – for decades. Furthermore, two rivers emanating from Bale, the Wabe Shebele and Yadot, (tributary of the Ganale) have hydroelectric schemes. The dam on the Yadot River supplies electricity to Delo-Mena, while the dam on the Wabe Shebele provides electricity to the Bale area.

Lastly, there are numerous natural mineral water springs which provides essential minerals for local livestock.

Temperatures vary widely throughout the mountains: on the plateau, daytime temperatures are usually around 10 °C (50 °F) with strong winds; in the Gaysay Valley average daytime temperatures are around 20 °C (68 °F), and the Harenna Forest is around 25 °C (77 °F). However, the weather changes frequently and sometimes drastically. In elevations over 3,000 meters, night frosts are common. The rainy season is from May until November.

The park is divided into five distinct and unique habitats: the Northern Grasslands (Gaysay Valley), Northern Juniper Woodlands (Park Headquarters), Afro-alpine Meadows (Sanetti Plateau), Erica Moorlands, and the Harenna Forest;as such habitats of the Bale Mountains National Park range from grassland areas around 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) in elevation, to Mount Tullu Demtu, the second highest point in Ethiopia at 4,377 metres (14,360 ft) above sea level.

Surrounded by East African pencil juniper (Juniperus procera) trees and St. John’s wort, waist-high wildflowers and grasses grow in the Northern Grasslands and Woodlands. Tree heath (Erica arborea) is native to the Ethiopian montane moorlands ecoregion in the park. The Afro-alpine moorlands of the Sanetti Plateau is the largest continuous area of its altitude on the entire continent of Africa. Carpeted in lichen covered rocks, and punctuated by Giant lobelia (Lobelia rynchopetalum) that grow to heights of up to 12 meters. The Plateau is also dotted with alpine lakes and streams, providing important resident wildlife resources, as well as wintering and passage stations for rare and regionally endemic birds. The Harenna Forest plant community makes up about half of the park, a woodland of trees draped in moss and lichens that seem to drip off the branches. The area is frequently cloaked in fog, and wildlife is elusive.

The Bale Mountains National Park is an important area for several threatened Ethiopian endemic species. Additionally, the park holds 26% of Ethiopia’s endemic species including one primate, one bovid, one hare, eight rodent species, and the entire global population of the big-headed African mole-rat. There are also several rare and endemic amphibians.[citation needed]

Mammal species in the Bale Mountains National Park include Ethiopian wolf , Mountain nyala, big-headed African mole-rat, Menelik’s bushbuck, common duiker, klipspringer, Bohor reedbuck, Ethiopian highland hare, honey badger, warthog, spotted hyena, serval, and the Bale Mountains vervet. Other mammals of Bale Mountains National Park (found in the Harenna forest) include the African golden wolf (otherwise known as the African wolf (a close relative of the European wolf), Giant forest hog, Mantled guereza, lion, African leopard, and African wild dog. Almost one-third of the 47 mammals that live in this region are rodents. The rodent community, particularly of the Afro-alpine plateau are keystone species in the Bale Mountains National Park.

The Bale Mountains are home to over 282 species of birds, including nine of the 16 species endemic to Ethiopia. Furthermore, over 170 migratory birds have been recorded within the park. Bale Mountains National Park is home to almost every highland Abyssinian and Ethiopian endemic. With over 863 species of birds recorded, representing approximately 9.5% of the world’s bird diversity and 39% of the bird species in Africa, Ethiopia is often considered one of the most avifaunal-rich countries in Africa. Sixteen of Bale’s bird species are endemic to Ethiopia, including blue-winged goose, spot-breasted lapwing, yellow-fronted parrot, Abyssinian longclaw , Abyssinian catbird, Bale parisoma, Ethiopian siskin, fawn-breasted waxbill, and the Abyssinian owl.

Ethiopian rare endemic reptiles that are newly discovered in the Bale Mountains forested areas include Ethiopian House snake , Ethiopian mountain adder, Bale two-horned chameleon, Harenna hornless chameleon, Beardless Ethiopian montane chameleon, and Wolfgang Böhme’s Ethiopian Chameleon.

At least 7 species of endemic amphibians are discovered in forested swampy areas and Bale Mountains National park plateaus. Ethiopian burrowing tree frog, Erlanger’s Grassland frog and Neumann’s Grassland frog are commonly rare within these habitats. However, other amphibians species lives within the areas of Bale Mountains such as Bale Mountain Frog, Ethiopian banana frog, Ragazzi’s tree frog , Kouni Valley striped frog, Malcolm’s Ethiopian toad, Osgood’s Ethiopian toad, and Bale Mountains tree frog are considered to be endangered because of habitat loss and deforestation.

This means that whether you are in the park, driving in your car, or walking in the reserve, there are a variety of fascinating and exciting species to find.

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