Home Sci-TechEnvironment Ethiopia: Conserving the Habitats of Ethiopia’s Wildlife

Ethiopia: Conserving the Habitats of Ethiopia’s Wildlife

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The habitat of the wildlife in Ethiopia can be described as being badly degraded. This is due to serious threats from cattle that traverse the land, recurrent fire, shortage of seasonal water and unsustainable utilization of resources.

Added to these dangers are agricultural expansion, hunting, human-wildlife encounter, conflict of interest over resource utilization between communities, lack of natural buffer zones and global warming.

Studies show that parks are ecological corridors for wildlife conservation due to their variety and abundance of fauna and flora. If properly managed, these parks can be an open air museum for wildlife conservation. They also serve as a green belt in preventing the expansion of arid deserts.

Ethiopia has 21 national parks, 20 controlled hunting areas, 4 biosphere reserves, 80 national priority forest areas, 2 wildlife sanctuaries and many other commercial ranches, botanical gardens, community conservation areas, and also wildlife reserves.

It is also noted that protected areas in Ethiopia are gifted with unique wildlife and marvelous topographic land features. These are accompanied by cultural manifestations that are suitable for wildlife tourism. Wildlife conservation in return helps keep the functioning and healthy ecosystems which are essential for sustainable development from which people benefit.

Thus, wildlife considerations have to be integrated into any poverty reduction strategy. As a result, wildlife protection is being addressed to a far greater extent and increasingly receives global attention. Ethiopia has a tremendous but to date only a partially untapped tourism potential including unique natural topographic beauty and biodiversity.

The loss of these natural resources could be detrimental to community based eco-tourism development and the diversity of wildlife. However, due to the difficulties of implementing community based ecotourism and wildlife conservation in practice, the expected return cannot be achieved yet.

Ethiopia has national parks of great economic and environmental importance. But, as mentioned earlier, it continually faces the threat of deforestation and loss of wildlife resulting from the expansion of agriculture.

As the Stern Report revealed, the country is also confronted with grazing land encroachment, illegal hunting, fishing and natural catastrophes like global warming, epidemic disease, and serious drought, all representing a high probability to further increase global extinction rates.

Wildlife in many national parks of Ethiopia is increasingly under threat from human encroachment. Poaching for subsistence purpose, habitat degradation due to deforestation, encroachment of incompatible land uses and uncontrolled fire create ever increasing human- wildlife clashes.

As Melaku revealed, in a situation where wildlife-induced damage to human property such as crops and domestic animals are neither controlled nor compensated, “negative” local attitudes towards conservation and wildlife resources become entrenched.

There is, therefore, a need to design a strategy to satisfy the demands of the local people and at the same time maintain the goal of balanced development of the national parks.

Parks may have layers of rocks that obstruct the penetration of water into the aquifer or a rock which can contain water. These areas provide suitable habitat for seasonal wetlands, which are in turn habitats for birds, aquatic and other wildlife species. The wildlife abundance and diversity have recreational and economic values.

They also have national and international significance being part of the “green belt” in combating the expansion of deserts. The areas are rich with various wildlife and indigenous cultures that have the potential for community based ecotourism development and wildlife conservation.

Parks are ideal site for an ecological corridor to wildlife conservation. They are endowed with natural beauty, diversity of plants and animals as well as cultural and historical heritages in their vicinity and most of them are rarely visited by domestic or foreign tourists. Studies have investigated the opportunities and challenges of wildlife conservation in some of these parks.

Experts have tried to find out the reasons for lack of joint development of ecotourism and wildlife conservation in a coordinated manner. Hailu has studied the potentials and challenges of parks for implementing “trans-boundary” park cooperation. Other experts have also investigated diversity and the relative abundance of birds, but they have not covered wildlife.

In some parks, the ecosystem is largely threatened by fire and water shortages in the dry season. As they are feeding areas for wild animals, they attract hunters.

There hunters are also attracted by other wild animals such as elephant, lion, leopard, panther and hyena living in the parks. This type of the ecosystem covers large areas in the parks with grass dominating the open areas of wetlands. Seasonal wetlands remain as pool for months in most areas excessively dominated by grasses.

Next to the wetlands, woodland ecosystems cover most of the parks that are rich in different trees, shrubs and vegetation. Woody plants and shrubs characterize the wooded land, which are rich in zoological resources and they are habitat of various types of wild animals.

Those parks that are bordering neighboring countries have political significance. The border areas have been free areas for bandits, robbers, poachers and smugglers in the past.

Ezedin observed that these border areas are relatively peaceful and secure compared to the past. It is now easy to control illegal transfers of animal products such as skin, ivory, ostrich egg, horns etc. It has been possible to stop drug trafficking and prevent the illicit trading of precious cultural treasures.

The topographic features of some of these parks are very striking with the presence of vast plains that are dominant. Most of the park areas are not exposed to soil erosion. This offers an opportunity for conservation of the natural resources near and around the parks.

The remarkable plain flatlands of some of these parks are covered with densely populated vegetation and migratory birds and wild animals. These parks have the potential to attract the attention of officials and visitors.

These areas of the parks could be protected to serve as part of the “greenbelt” that helps to alleviate the expansion of desert areas. The parks also have the potential to be international biosphere reserve.