Bale Mountains National Park

National Parks

Bale Mountains National Park

Nominated in 2009 to the World Heritage Tentative List, Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) is a national park in Ethiopia with one of the highest incidences of animal endemicity of any terrestrial habitat in the world. The Park encompasses an area of approximately 2,150 km2, and is divided into five distinct and unique habitats: the Northern Grasslands (Gaysay Valley), Northern Woodlands (Park Headquarters), Afro-alpine Meadows (Sanetti Pleateau), Erica Moorlands, and the Harenna Forest. The park is known for being home to the largest populations of both the endemic and endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) and Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), as well as the endemic Bale monkey(Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) and giant mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus). The endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus once existed in the Park (with relict packs reported in the 1990s), but may now be extirpated due to human population pressures in this region.

The Bale Mountains were formed prior to the formation of the Rift Valley from lava outpourings, which covered all underlying rock formations between 38 and seven million years ago. The rocks of the volcanic outpourings are pre-dominantly trachytes but also include rhyolites, basalts and associated agglomerates, and tuffs. The main Bale highlands consist of a vast lava plateau with at least six volcanic cones, each more than 4,200 meters high, which have been considerably flattened by repeated glaciations.

There have been at least two glacial periods in the history of the mountains and they were glaciated as little as 2,000 years ago. During the last ice age, the Bale Mountains were one of the most extensively glaciated areas in Ethiopia with a total area of ice in Bale of approximately 180 km2. There was a 30km2 ice cap around the peak of Tulu Dimtu (the second highest mountain in Ethiopia) on the Sanetti Plateau and individual glaciers of considerable thickness reached down to 3,200 meters. As a consequence, the landscape as we see it today is the lava outpourings much modified by over 20 million years of erosion by water, wind and ice.

There are certain geological features that remain an enigma to geologists and glaciologists such as the striations that appear on shallow hillsides on the Sanetti Plateau. Boulder grooves (large stone sorted stripes two to four meters wide and eighty meters long), till ridges and numerous glacial valleys, such as the Togona Valley on the northeast facing slopes of the Sanetti Plateau, provide evidence of the ice-age effects on the landscape of BMNP.  Until the beginning of deglaciation (13,000 to 14,000 years ago) the snowline was at 3,700 meters and the upper tree limit in the Bale Mountains was well below 3,000 meters. Fluctuations in climate over the last historical period, including the last 3,000 years, have dramatically affected the vegetation and other biodiversity in the highlands