Etosha National Park is located in northwest Namibia and has an area of about 22 270 square kilometers. The park is located in Kunene and has Oshana, Otjozondjupa and Oshikoto as the neighboring regions. The name Etosha means “Great White Place”, possibly derived from the massive salt pan that is characteristic of the place that is said to be visible from space. The pan covers about 25% of the park. It was declared a game reserve in 1907 and then elevated to national park status in 1967 through legislation by the then Republic of South Africa, which had jurisdiction at the time. Since then, it has become one of the most important game reserves in Southern Africa.
The park is a habitat for many species of mammals, reptiles, birds and some species that are endangered or threatened. To be more precise, according to Namibian.org, 114 species of mammals, 340 bird species, 110 species of reptiles, 16 species of amphibians and one species of fish. The salty pan used to be a lake that dried up thousands of years ago. However, the pan fills up with water seasonally during heavy rains. The temporary pond attracts large flocks of wading birds including flamingoes and other wildlife such as giraffes and elephants to the water.
The vegetation in the park consists of woodlands and Savanah except in areas near the pan where the conditions are only conducive to a type of grass called the halophytic Sporobolussalsus, which is food for wildebeasts and springbok. The most common tree is the Mopane, which estimated to consist of about 60% of the tree population in the park. Acacia trees are also common, but they are mainly found in the north-eastern side of the park. Tamboti trees dominateTamboti the south. Dwarf shrub savannah is found around to the pan due to the presence of sandy soils. Thornbush Savannah which survives on alkaline and limestone soils are also found close to the pan.
Hunting and encroachment nearly exterminated some large mammals such as elephants and lions in the late 19th century. Preserving the animals was one of the primary reasons for setting up the game reserve. However, some animals like wild dogs and buffalo have been extinct in the park since the mid-20th century. Other animals that have gone extinct in the park include the African Buffalo and the cape wild dog. Wildlife in Etosha National Park could be broadly grouped by ease of spotting it. There are animals that are rare to spot in the park while some can easily be seen grazing, hunting or moving about in the park.
The best locations to get the best game viewing is at the many waterholes found around the park, especially during dry seasons when their number decreases hence the animals have to find and rely on the more permanent ones. The permanent and larger waterholes attract large herds of zebras, springbok and elephants who come to drink and cool down.
Etosha National Park is home to four of the African big 5. Leopards are more elusive and hard to spot as they hide in the dense vegetation. Elephants and lions are, however, common and easier to see. Of the big 5, the Etosha national park provides a healthy dose of the black rhinoceros population. The endangered beast can easily be seen at the many waterholes and grasslands. The black-faced impala and the fleet footed cheetah constitute other rare and endangered animals that can be found in Etosha National park. Other rare animals are the southern white rhinoceros, the southern African cheetah, serval, the black footed cat, the dwarf mongoose, the ground pangolin and the common eland.
Some animals that are fairly common and easily seen include the African bush elephant, the Angolan giraffe, the southwest African lion, the African leopard, the south African cheetah, the caracal, the African wildcat, the black backed jackal, the bat eared fox, the cape fox, the brown and spotted hyenas, the aardwolf, the meerkat, the banded and the yellow mongoose, the common genet, the common warthog, the spring hare, the African ground squirrel, the crested porcupine, plains zebras, mountain zebras, springbok and wildebeest.
Etosha National Park is home to a wide variety of bird species. To give an overview, the most common species are lesser flamingoes, the white pelican, the ostrich, the blue cranes, storks, eagles, crows, waterfowls, kites, falcons, waders, sandgrouse, herons and pigeons, to name but a few.
National Park parks a rich and diverse collection of wildlife that allows for conservation and protection of the species while providing a great sight for tourists.