Ethiopia opens dwindling elephant herd to tourists

December 8, 2008


ADDIS ABABA, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Ethiopia began inviting tourists to visit its dwindling elephant herd on Monday as part of efforts to boost income from tourism.

The Babile wildlife sanctuary near Harar, 560 km (350 miles) east of Addis Ababa, is the first in Ethiopia to offer visits specifically aimed at seeing elephants, whose numbers have been ravaged by poaching and decades of neglect.

There are around 300 in Babile, which is also home to a national symbol: the rare black-mane lion, depicted on Ethiopia’s currency.

The government has invested heavily this year in hotels, airports and other infrastructure, hoping to boost tourism earnings by 15 percent to around $200 million.

Harar was an ancient trading hub and a centre of Islamic scholarship in the Horn of Africa. (Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Kevin Liffey)