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Location Ethiopia, Amhara
Central coordinates 38o 12.00' East  13o 13.14' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 110,000 ha
Altitude 1,900 - 4,430m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society



Site description Simen Mountains National Park is on the northern edge of the Ethiopian central plateau, overlooking the Tekeze gorge. It is 132 km from Gondar, the capital for North Gondar Zone. The park is scenically dramatic, and comprises a narrow strip of land along the top of the cliffs (at 3,300–3,800 m), the cliffs themselves, with sheer drops of c.1,000 m, and another strip of land at the bottom (down to c.1,900 m). The highest peak in the park is 4,430 m. The main habitats are: Afro-alpine grassland on the highest areas; ericaceous forest below 3,500 m and, on the steep slopes at the top of the gorge, a mixture of tussock-grasses; cliff-hanging herbs and small shrubs on the cliffs; and montane coniferous forest and grassland at the lowest altitudes. There are also fast-flowing, permanent streams, very high waterfalls and rocky areas. The Afro-alpine flora is important because it contains a high proportion of regional and local endemics. For example, 10 species of grass (19%) recorded from the Simen area are endemics. The grassland is dominated by tussock-grasses including Festuca gilbertiana, which is only known from the Geech plateau in Simen. The most conspicuous plants at these high altitudes (all Afro-alpine endemics) are giant Lobelia species and Kniphofia foliosa. A stonecrop, Rosularia semiensis, is also endemic to the Simen mountains. The dominant tree of the ericaceous belt is Erica arborea with patches of Hypericum revolutum and H. quartinianum. Few areas of pristine Erica forest (i.e. where trees meet overhead and the ground is covered with grasses and other herbs) remain. Those that do are where the slopes are too steep for men to climb down and cut trees. Crops are cultivated and domestic animals graze throughout the area, even on the steep slopes. On the plateau, barley is the only crop grown, while at lower altitudes the cereals are more typical of the highlands. The villagers of Geech weave traditional cotton cloth, and the park employs a number of local people.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Over 137 species are known to occur within the park, including a high proportion of the Afrotropical Highlands biome assemblage such as Francolinus castaneicollis, Agapornis taranta, Tauraco leucotis, Thamnolaea semirufa, Psuedoalcippe abyssinica, Onychognathus albirostris and Oriolus monacha. Below the escarpment four Somali–Masai biome species and one Sudan–Guinea Savanna species have been recorded. The park is thought to support important populations of Vanellus melanocephalus on the Geech plateau and, on the cliffs, Columba albitorques, Thamnolaea semirufa and the restricted-range Myrmecocichla melaena. During the 1960s it was suggested that Vanellus melanocephalus bred on the Geech plateau, but there are no recent reports to confirm this. A small population of Macronyx flavicollis is known to be present. A small population of Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax lives on the Geech plateau, apparently entirely separate from the population in the Bale mountains, the only other population of this bird in the region. This area is particularly rich in raptors and vultures. Small numbers of Circus macrourus are recorded seasonally and Gypaetus barbatus and Buteo augur are generally common throughout the park. Other spectacular species include Aquila wahlbergi, A. verreauxii, Polemaetus bellicosus, Spizaetus africanus, Accipiter rufiventris, Falco alopex, Bubo capensis and Asio abyssinicus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The most abundant large mammal is the endemic Theropithecus gelada (LR/nt). Other large herbivores include Capra walia (CR) and the endemic Tragelaphus scriptus meneliki. There are also numerous rodents, including two endemic species of rat, that live in the Afro-alpine grasslands. Canis simensis (CR) also occurs. A number of endemic plants are mentioned above under ‘Site description’.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Banded Barbet Lybius undatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Francolinus castaneicollis resident  1996  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Erckel's Francolin Pternistis erckelii resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Wattled Ibis Bostrychia carunculata resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Buteo oreophilus resident  1996  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus passage  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Spot-breasted Lapwing Vanellus melanocephalus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-collared Pigeon Columba albitorques resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Dusky Turtle-dove Streptopelia lugens resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Nyanza Swift Apus niansae resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Woodpecker Dendropicos abyssinicus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Dark-headed Oriole Oriolus monacha resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Thick-billed Raven Corvus crassirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-backed Tit Parus leuconotus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus umbrovirens resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Catbird Parophasma galinieri resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Montane White-eye Zosterops poliogastrus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-billed Starling Onychognathus albirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Robin-chat Cossypha semirufa resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Moorland Chat Cercomela sordida resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Chat Myrmecocichla melaena resident  1996  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Cliff-chat Monticola semirufus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher Dioptrornis chocolatinus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Tacazze Sunbird Nectarinia tacazze resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swainson's Sparrow Passer swainsonii resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Longclaw Macronyx flavicollis resident  1996  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Ethiopian Siskin Serinus nigriceps resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Citril Serinus citrinelloides resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-rumped Seedeater Serinus tristriatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Serinus striolatus resident  1996  present  A3  Not Recognised 

IBA Monitoring

1996 medium very unfavourable low
Habitat
-

Agricultural expansion and intensification annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Human intrusions and disturbance war, civil unrest and military exercises past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Grassland   0 0 very poor (< 40%) poor (40-69%) very unfavourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management plan exists but the management planning process has begun  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Simien Mountains National Park 17,900 protected area contained by site 17,900  
Simien National Park World Heritage Site 23,200 protected area contains site 19,000  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   93%
Grassland   6%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

Further web sources of information 

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This site has been identified as an AZE due to it containing a Critically Endangered or Endangered species with a limited range.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

References Drake (undated), Dunbar and Dunbar (1974), Edwards (1996), Hillman (1993), Hurni (1986), Klotzli (1975), Lilyestrom (1974), Ministry of Natural Resources Development (MoNRDEP) et al. (1995), Nievergelt (1981).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Simien Mountains National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/12/2014

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