Kafta-Sheraro National Park (KSNP), which was recognized as a Park in 2007, is situated in the northwest of Ethiopia. It is bordered by Eritrea in the North and it is presumed to have an estimated total area of 6000 square km. In addition to estimated area coverage of the park, an estimated area coverage in Gash-Setit, Eritrea is 5,275km2. The park is located 600 km northwest of Mekelle the capital city of Tigray and is one of a few areas in the region which is relatively not densely populated and with relatively better natural vegetation cover compare to other part of the region. It stretches from Ruwassa River in the south to Tekeze River in the north from Welkait wereda in the east. The Park is home to many ungulates, predators and other wild animal species.
Altitude ranges between 550m and 1800 m. The main rainy season is from July to September, with a short rainy season from February to April with mean annual rainfall about 400-650mm. The park conserves 42 mammals 167 birds and 9 reptile species. It has biodiversity and ecosystems with mosaic woodlands of Combretum-Terminalia, Acacia-Commiphora, Dry-evergreen montane, scrubland and riparian vegetation. It also hosts larger mammals such as Caracal (Felis caracal), Aardvark (Orycteropus afer), Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), Loxodonta africana (African elephant), Xerus rutilus (ground squirrel), Hystrix cristata (Crested porcupine), Tragelaphus strepsiceros (Greater kudu), Hippotragus equines (Roan antelope), Taurotragus oreyx (Eland Gazelle), rufifrons Thomson’s (grant gazelle), Kobus ellipsiprymnus (Defassa waterbuck), Sylvicapra grimmia (Bush duiker), Madoqua saltiana (Dikdik), Ourebia ourebi (oribi), Oreotragus oreotragus (Klipspringer), Phacochoerus africanus (Common warthog), Prcavia habessinica (Ethiopian rock hyrax), Ichneumia albicauda (White tailed mongoose), Galerella sanguinea (Slender mongoose), Civettictis civetta (African civet), Crocula crocuta (Spotted hyena), Canis aureus (Common jackal), Canis mesomelas (Black-backed jackal), mellivora capensis (Honey badger), Papio anubis (Anubis baboon), Chlorocebus aethiops (Grivet monkey), Lepus habessinicus (Abyssinian hare) Orycteropus afer (Aardvark), and Pathera pardus (Leopard).
The avifauna of the Park is rather immense. As a result, the Park is registered as one of the 73 Important Bird Areas in Ethiopia. The Brown-headed parrot, Parakeet, Little green bee-eater, and Demoiselle crane are of the few most attractive bird species of the Park. But what makes this park unique from the rest of Ethiopian National parks is the great flocks of the Demoiselle cranes in the Great Tekeze Valley. The Tekeze Valley and the wide expanse of agricultural lands around have been found to be an ideal habitat for the Demoiselle cranes. The Demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides virgo) are prehistoric birds and are found in five continents. They are the tallest of all flying birds. Many of them make long migrations and need large undisturbed wetlands for migratory stop-over as well as breeding, wintering and feeding grounds.
There are fifteen species of cranes in the world: seven of these species are endangered, and most of the others are in decline. Africa has six species of Cranes of which four of them are recorded in Ethiopia. While there are quite few reports on the three species i.e. Common, Black-crowned, and Wattled cranes, no account describing specific areas on the distribution and status of Demoiselle crane was available. According to the Ramsar Convention, a wetland should be listed as Ramsar Site if it fulfills criteria based on the number of the species and the nature of its habitat. Criterion 5 of the Convention states that a wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds. The Cranes Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan of the IUCN state that there are over 240,000 Demoiselle cranes in the world. This record of the Demoiselle crane perhaps is the only report in Ethiopia. The population, estimated to be over 22,000, comprises more than about 9% of the world population, which is far more than what is stated by the Criterion of the Convention.
One of the reasons for the insufficient progress in protecting habitats and biological diversity may be a lack of appreciation of their value as national priority. Properly designed and managed protected areas are not set aside from the development point of view; rather, they are allocated to protective type of management to support national development objectives. The Kafta-Sheraro National Park can be consider even as the living museum; protected areas can bring many benefits to local communities and the nation in general. These benefits are of two general kinds, goods and services. Hence the Kafta-Sheraro National Park has quite good biophysical qualities, which needs Promotion and awareness. More over, a more continual census and monitoring of the cranes and other avifauna of this new Park are recommended. This preliminary report would magnify the importance of the Park for sheltering the highest population of Demoiselle cranes and Greater kudus in the country, and may be in the Horn of Africa. Hence, we advice the Tigray Region Agriculture and Rural Development the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and other conservation groups to provide maximum attention to this Park.
Institute of Biodiversity Conservation