Ethiopia: Simien Mountains NP – Walia Ibex

Coming to the Simien Mountains National Park, we knew we would be certain to see a lot of gelada baboons, but what we were really hoping for were the Walia Ibex. These spectacular animals are endemic to the Simiens, and are found nowhere else in the world. These are also some of the rarest animals on the planet – it’s estimated that there are only 200-400 animals remaining (and perhaps much less after the most recent civil war in Ethiopia, when troops passed and camped in the park for periods of time). We traveled to the far edge of the park and some of the highest terrain near the Bhawit peak, the third highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4437 m / 14560 ft, the area where I had seen them in 2014. We looked hard all around the area but couldn’t see any. Alas! We turned around and were driving back when we spotted what looked like a curved horn on the very top of the mountain. Binoculars confirmed it was a Walia ibex. We decided to get a bit closer, and a bit closer, and soon this turned into a full-fledged climb to the top of the mountain (not that easy at this elevation level). Eventually we saw a group of Walia ibex, all male, a total of 9 of them, one with really huge horns (even the guide said he’d never seen one like this in 12 years in the park). Absolutely magnificent animals, we observed them for a good hour, as the group slowly moved East along the mountain ridge. Just to think we saw perhaps 5% of the total global population of an animal species! Priceless!