Alatish National Park was established in 2006. The general topography of the park is flat to undulating plains, with a general slope or inclination from the south to the north, interrupted by valleys, streams, scattered hills, and seasonal wetlands. Elevation ranges from 520m to 920m above sea level. It is located 970 km north of Addis Abeba, in QuaraWereda, North Gondar Zone, Amhara Regional State.
The park shares its boundaries in the south with Benishangul – Gumuz Regional State, in the west with Sudan’s Dinder National park, in the east with Bembaho, Gelego, and Mahdid. It covers an area of 266,5 Square Kilometers composed of lowland woodlands. There are a few hills in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the area. The Twin Mountains of Amdog are a special feature in the southwestern corner of the park.
Based on the characteristics of Ethiopian vegetation classification, vegetation in Alatish National Park is categorized largely under woodland vegetation ecosystem. The overall park area is dominated by Combretum spp., Terminalia spp., Oxythenantera abyssinica, Anogeissus leocarpa, Pterocarpus lucens, Dalbergia melanoxylon, Balanites aegyptica, Acacia seyal, Dacrostachys cinera, Ficus spp, Entada Africana and other woody species. In general the vegetation of the park can be classified Mixed woodland vegetation such as Combretum and Terminalia, Riverine vegetation such as Acacia and Ficus, Seasonal wetland vegetation such as Hygrophila auriculata and Balalnite aegyptica trees Open wooded grassland vegetation such as Annogiossus leocarpa and Combretum, last but not least is Hilly area woodland vegetation which is rich with diverse woody species types such as Ficus trees and lower canopy species like Oxythenanthera abyssinica
There are 26 larger mammals (excluding rodents) and 143 recorded bird species. The ornithology of the area requires more investigation but estimates based on habitat diversity show that there could be anything between 250-400 species of birds representing various status. Alatish is found in an arid and semi-arid ecological zone. It forms an ecotone between the high mountains of the Simen and the Sahel zone in Sudan. As a result, the biological attributes of the park are believed to be diverse and rich. Alatish also has a number of historical and cultural assets. Of these, a large Baobab tree at Omedla and the ethnic composition of the area made up of Felata and Gumuz communities are important tourist attractions.
Alatish National Park is rich in zoological resources and it is home to various types of wild animals. 37 mammalian species of which 8 are not recently (last 15 years) seen, 204 birds species, 23 rodent species, 6 species of insectivores and 7 types of reptiles and amphibians are found in the park. Alatish National Park has a variety of fauna which requires conservation. It is especially rich in reptile diversity such as African rock python, monitor lizard, Egyptian cobra, black mamba and Blanding’s tree snake. It also harbors endangered and rare species of Elephant, Leopard, Lion and also the low risk but conservation dependent Lesser kudu and Greater kudu. Permanent but intermittent rivers bordering the park like Aayima and Gelegu provide a huge amount of fish resources to the local communities besides being the main water sources of people and animals.
The Lesser Kudu is a forest antelope found in East Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. The Southern Lesser Kudu is a subspecies found in Kenya and Tanzania. Lesser Kudu stands about a meter at the shoulder and weighs 155 to 205 kilograms, males are larger than females. Lesser Kudu males are grey-brown while females are chestnut the coat is lighter on their underside. Both have about ten white stripes on their backs and two white tufts on the underside of their necks. Males have a small mane and horns of about 70 centimeters with one twist.
Lesser Kudu lives in dry thorn bush and forest and eats mainly leaves. They live in groups of two to five ranging up to twenty-four on rare occasions these have about equal numbers of males and females.
Though lions are thought to have been present there for centuries, and locals knew of their existence in the area, the international community was unaware. But in a ground-breaking discovery, Dr. Bauer and his team found original and undisputable evidence of lions in the region – successfully obtaining camera trap images of lions and identifying lion tracks. The team also concluded lions were likely to exist in the larger, adjacent Dinder National Park across the border in Sudan.
Dr. Hans Bauer said: “Lions are definitely present in Alatish National Park and in Dinder National Park. Lion presence in Alatish National Park has not previously been confirmed in meetings at national or international level. “Considering the relative ease with which lion signs were observed, it is likely that they are resident throughout Alatish National Park and Dinder. Due to limited surface water, prey densities are low, and lion densities are likely to be low, we may conservatively assume a density in the range of one to two lions per 100 km2. On a total surface area of about 10,000 km2, this would mean a population of 100-200 lions for the entire ecosystem, of which 27–54 would be in Alatish” he added.
The African lion is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with a declining trend throughout most of its range. Lion numbers are estimated to have declined 50% to 75% since 1980 and the species only occupies 8% of its historic range across the continent. Lions were thought to be locally extinct in Sudan, so the new findings are encouraging. Now the expedition is complete, the next step is to communicate with the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan and look at the needs for conservation in the area so this previously undiscovered lion stronghold can be protected. With lion numbers in steep decline across most of the African continent, the discovery of previously unconfirmed populations is hugely important – especially in Ethiopia, whose government is a significant conservation ally. We need to do all we can to protect these animals and the ecosystem on which they depend, along with all the other remaining lions across Africa, so we can reverse the declines and secure their future.
The diversity and relative abundance of birds were investigated in Alatish during the wet and dry seasons. Based on the topographic map, satellite image and preliminary survey, four habitat types were identified comprising 37 blocks in 100 km. Eleven blocks were randomly selected based on the type of vegetation. Transects of 10 km length and 2 widths of 0.2 km or less were randomly selected to cover 20% of the area. One hundred forty-three species of birds including endangered, rare and vulnerable species were recorded. Sixty-five species of birds were residents during both seasons. A total of 122 species of birds was recorded during the wet season and 86 during the dry season. The relative abundance of birds was determined using encounter rates that give ordinal scale. This resulted in 97 species of birds as rare, 20 uncommon, 19 frequent, four common and three abundant. The wet season survey showed the highest species diversity in the wooded grassland habitat owing to the presence of resources. The dry season survey showed the highest avian species diversity, evenness, and richness in the riverine woodland habitat due to the availability of water. Most species of birds in Alatish were locally rare as a result of habitat degradation. This hindered the establishment of species distribution pattern, especially during the dry season. Availability of food, water, and cover were the major factors determining the diversity and abundance of birds. Habitat destruction by the nomadic Falata community with their livestock, poaching, and forest fire contributed to the deterioration in the diversity and number of birds. Urgent conservation measures are needed to conserve the biological diversity of Alatish.
In terms of tourism potential, the park has a capacity for tourism development with the numerous tourist attractions. As a natural attraction, Alatish National Park has various plants, and animals such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. In its spectacular landscape, the park is more or less flat train with very few scattered beautiful conical peaks. The landscape is dominated by dry woodland savanna and the riverine forest can also be potential tourist attractions.
As a historical attraction, one big Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) housed the former Emperor Haileselassie for seven days inside its stem on his return to Ethiopia after victory over the colonialist Fascist Italia in 1941. Moreover, Emperor Tewodros, which was one of the most magnificent Ethiopian leaders, was born in Quara about 25 km from Gelegu, headquarters of Alatish National Park in 1818. Alatish National Park has also cultural attractions which can be expressed in music, dance and drams performing groups, cultural festivals, a sale of visual arts and crafts (basketry & pottery) and lifestyles practiced by many diverse ethnic groups (Gumuz, Agew, Amhara) living around the park.