Located in Algeria’s Tissemsilt Province, with the highest peak of the Ouarsenis Mountains as a backdrop, the Théniet El Had National Park is a popular destination with both local and visiting hiking enthusiasts. Boasting several forests and a wide variety of vegetation and habitats, the park is home to seventeen species of mammals, nine of which are considered to be protected, as well as almost a hundred species of birds, more than three hundred species of insects, and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. In addition to the leisure aspect, Théniet El Had National Park serves as a research area, with the focus being on sustainable development, maintaining the park’s biodiversity and monitoring the ecological balance of the park.
Of the ninety-seven species of birds found in the park, it is estimated that up to 60% are actively breeding, including Bonelli’s eagles, golden eagles, Egyptian vultures, Lanner falcons, buzzards, bee-eaters, green woodpeckers, greenfinches, nightjars and European rollers. Although being widely distributed in southwestern Europe, India and northern Africa, Egyptian vultures are listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, with populations being negatively impacted by poisoning, hunting, and collisions with power lines. An Egyptian vulture in full flight, soaring on thermals with outstretched wings, is a magnificent sight. These scavengers are generally seen either in pairs or as individuals. They co-exist with other birds of prey and scavengers and are not at all fussy about what they eat. Egyptian vultures breed in spring, with their courting ritual including male and female soaring high in the air together, before spiraling and swooping down again. Once united as a breeding pair, Egyptian vultures are monogamous and may stay together for more than one season, even returning to the same nest each year. Be sure to look out for these regal birds when exploring the Théniet El Had National Park.
Mammals to keep an eye out for include the caracal lynx, genet, mongoose, porcupine and weasel. With its distinctively large ears topped with tufts of long hairs, the caracal lynx, alternatively known as the desert lynx, is fairly common right across Africa, and visitors are likely to see some of these sleek tawny colored wild cats while traveling through the park. Among the reptiles to be found in the park is the Greek Tortoise, also known as the Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) which is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, and the Montpellier snake, as well as geckos, lizards and chameleons.