Ethiopian park comes off World Heritage ‘danger list’ but challenges remain

Simien National Park in Ethiopia has been removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger at the 41st World Heritage Committee meeting, taking place this week in Kraków, Poland. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Committee’s advisory body on nature, highlights that, while the park’s conservation has improved, challenges remain. 

Simien National Park, Ethiopia

The park is one the oldest natural World Heritage sites, inscribed in 1978 for its spectacular landscapes, which are home to some extremely rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else in the world. The site was listed as ‘in danger’ in 2006, after its rare wildlife was brought to near extinction due to poaching, farming and road construction.

In 2017, an IUCN mission recognised that improvements were made to the state of conservation of the park, however noted that issues still persist.

Positive steps include the expansion of the national park, bringing its total area to three times the size of the area formally classified under the World Heritage List. Thanks to this increased protection, the conservation prospects of the walia ibex are probably better than they have been in decades. As requested by the World Heritage Committee following IUCN’s advice, Ethiopia should prepare a nomination proposal to include the extended area to the World Heritage site.

However, some challenges to the conservation of the site remain, notably due to excessive grazing of livestock within the site. The park’s management must address overgrazing while supporting livelihoods. Following IUCN’s advice, the World Heritage Committee requested that Ethiopia engage with local communities to further develop alternative sources of livelihood.

UNESCO’s 41st session of the World Heritage Committee takes place from 2 to 12 July 2017 in Kraków, Poland. As the official advisory body on nature under the World Heritage Convention, IUCN makes recommendations on the action needed to support sites facing threats and evaluate natural sites nominated to the World Heritage List. 

For more information on the 41st World Heritage Committee meeting see here.

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