By Martin Plaut
BBC News, Ethiopia
The commercial company that has taken over the management of one of Ethiopia's most beautiful game reserves has found that keeping the local people happy is more difficult than looking after the animals.
Nech-Sar borders two volcanic lakes
Seven months ago, African Parks took over the Nech-Sar National Park, 500 km south of the capital, Addis Ababa.
It borders two volcanic lakes, linked by mountains called the "Bridge of God" by local people.
Its mature trees tower 30 metres above the river that waters them. And its grasslands and marshes boast more than 300 species of birds.
Mateos Ersado, who has spent some 20 years in the Ethiopian conservation services, is now in charge. But he admits that animals are the least of his problems.
"We have a number of communities who have come to depend on the park, and we need to take into account their needs," he says.
In recent years these communities have encroached on the park. Some have cut firewood inside the park to sell in the adjacent town of Arba Minch.
Others, like the Kore, live in the mountains that border on the park and walk through it to get to the town. And the Guji-Oromo have used the park to graze their cattle.
Each group will require a specific solution, and African Parks is making a fund available that will have $4,000 a month to help the communities.
Local residents are being paid to clear thickets in the park
But Mateos Ersado has begun with the men and women who have made a living from cutting wood.
The men have been allowed to continue collecting wood in the park for a limited period.
They are currently being paid 8 birr (about $1) a day to hack out thorn thickets that have grown up in areas that were overgrazed by cattle.
The wood they provide is then collected by the women, who sell it in town.
In the longer run, African Parks is committed to finding alternative sources of fuel.
Mateos Ersado says they will look to state forest reserves, or commercial forests as a way of providing fuel for Arba Minch.
Different solutions are being considered for the Kore, who walk across the "Bridge of God" to reach the town. One possibility is to launch a ferry service across one of the lakes, and a Dutch charity is considering helping with this facility.
But the long-term aim is to put the park on a commercial footing.
Luxury lodges, similar to those that already exist in many South African national parks, are being planned. So are tented camps, down by the lakes.
Already around 500 tourists come to the park every month.
They come to see the wonderful scenery and the animals that are already there: hippo, crocodile, kudu, hartebeest and zebra.
The aim is to build on this, and in around two years the management will begin importing the elephant, lion, rhino and giraffe that once inhabited the area.
This is an ambitious plan, but it has not been without controversy.
During the May elections the opposition attacked the government for "selling off the park".
Mateos Ersado says this is entirely wrong: the company has a 25-year management contract, but the park continues to be the property of the Ethiopian people.
Eventually the park should provide well-paid jobs for hundreds of people.
Some locals walk through the park to get to the nearby town
Ethiopia badly needs to put itself more firmly on the tourist map. Coffee, which makes up 65% of the country's export earnings, is too vulnerable to large variations in price.
Tourism is already Africa's second largest source of foreign exchange, after oil.
African Parks is considering expanding its work in Ethiopia and may take over the management of the Omo National Park.
But first it must find a way of ensuring that those who leave near the Nech-Sar National Park also benefit from its new commercial management.