This striking and unmistakable baboon is the most common of Ethiopia’s endemic large mammal species, with the population estimated by some as high as 400.000.
The male is a spectacularly handsome beast, possessed of an imposing golden mane and heart-shaped red chest patch. This singular primate is unique in that it feeds predominantly on grasses. It is a very sociable monkey too! Conglomerations of 500 or more can be easily seen while walking along the cliffs of the Semien Mountain National Park
They are very tame and will allow humans to approach very close to the troop before moving nearer to the cliff edge. You will sure enjoy the stay close to them!
The German naturalist and explorer Eduard Ruppell studied in 1835 the Gelada baboon (Thercopithecus gelada). He named it by the local name used by the inhabitants. They are not difficult at all to study as they are very tame.
Gelada baboons live along the edges and steep slopes of precipices. As they never move far from the rim, their distribution is linear along the escarpment. At night they climb down the steep cliff faces to caves where they roost on ledges, often huddled close together for warmth as nights in Semien mountains are frosty and bitterly cold. Babies cling tight to their mothers even in sleep. In the morning in the warm sun they climb up again to the top of the cliff and spread out to feed. Gelada baboons are mainly vegetarian, living on herbs, grasses and roots, but they also eat insects and locusts. They never eat meat, or hunt or kill even small birds or mammals. As a result of this restricted diet they are obliged to spend a very high percentage of their lives foraging and browsing in order to obtain sufficient nutrients to survive. This may explain why they are so extremely peaceable by nature, with very little squabbling even amongst themselves. Their only natural enemy is the leopard. They live in peace with ‘Man’. In ancient times however, the great mane of the male was used for traditional headdresses by highland warriors.
Apart from feeding, “grooming” is their other main pastime. This entails simply picking through each others fur. This is not only a friendly and peaceful occupation, but it serves also to establish bonds between various members of a ‘harem’ and to cement the accepted relationships in the hierarchy, between male and female, older and younger members.
The Mountain Nyala is one of the greatest African antelopes. It looks like a very close relative of the greater kudu, but it has smaller (though by no means insignificant) horns with only one twist. There is still today very little known about its habits or the full extent of its range.
The main protected population is found in the North of Bale National Park, around Dinsho and mount Gaysay. The animal is not as shy as one could fear and you can easily approach him to take some amazing pictures, especially in the mornings and evenings when they come down out the forest to graze. They are breeding prolifically and comparatively large groups of females and young can be seen.
Nyala are a magnificent sight, particularly the old bulls with their fine spiraled horns. Females do not carry horns and they have rather long necks and large ears, which are very conspicuous. The body color of an old male is dark grey, with a line of long hair along the back forming a straggly mane which continues’ along the spine as a brown and white crest. Young calves are bright rufous and can be mistaken for bush buck if the mother is not seen. Females are redder that the males, although they tend to become greyer with age. They move in parties or small herds of about five to ten females, and although the really old bulls are solitary and not often seen, young males carrying quite impressive spreads of horns, can sometimes be seen with or near the herds of females and young, and males are sometimes seen in small groups of two or three individuals. The global population is estimated to stand between 2.500 and 5.000 individuals.
Every wildlife enthusiast will want to see the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) the most rare of the world’s canis species and listed as critically endangered on the 2000 IUCN Red List. Fewer than 600 animals are left in the wild. The Southern race is found in Bale mountain National Park. Rare they might be, but Ethiopian wolves are not difficult to see. On the road through the Sanetti Plateau, sightings are virtually guaranteed. Hikers, or people who drive up for the day, might encounter wolves a dozen times.
It has a predominantly rufous coat, white throat and flank markings, and a black tail. It is a diurnal hunter of Afro-alpine moorland and short grassland, where it feeds mostly on rodents, including the endemic giant mole rat. Unlike most canids, it is essentially a courser rather than a hunter. The Ethiopian wolf stands about 60 cm high, making it larger than any jackal, and has a long muzzle similar to that of a coyote.
The Swayne’s hartebeest is one of the fifteen races of African hartebeest. It is nowadays seriously endangered and is only found in Senkele Game Reserve and Nechisar National Park in Ethiopia. In 1891, Brigadier-General Swayne, was the first European to visit the area and told about ten of thousands of animals living in huge herds. Unfortunately the rinderpest, which swept Africa during the last century, and the Somalis “went out daily and pulled down the sick animals with their bare hands in order to take the hides”. Military campaigns followed in which the armed forces were permitted to kill as much game as they wanted. Arms flowed in and in the unsettled conditions which prevailed hunters very efficiently, and in a very short time, had almost succeeded in wiping out the remnants of the Oryx and Hartebeest herds in the area.
Ethiopia’s rarest endemic is the Walia Ibex, a type of goat that lives on narrow mountain ledges. it can easily be recognised by the large decurved horns of s horns of s of both es.
The male horns are larger than the females’ and may measure more than 1 meter. The presence of carved ibex on many pre-Christian religious shrine in Axum indicates that it was once considerably more widespread than it is today.
It is now restricted to the Semien mountains. The population is currently estimated at about 300. It is hoped that this will be boosted by more stringent enforcement of the ban of hunting as the Ibex has no natural enemies.
The handsome Menelik’s bushbuck is a highland antelope race, endemic to Ethiopia. It can be easily seen around Dinsho at Bale mountains National Park and in the Entoto hills and other forests near Addis Abeba. They are forest- living animals inhabiting dense bush, usually near water, though this is not an essential, as some of them have been known to go without drinking for long periods when necessary.
In Bale, as you climb up through the Hagenia forest with its flowering trees, and enter the zone of Giant Heath and St. John’s Wort, sunlight dapples the ground beneath your feet, lichens hang softly from every twig and bright dark green mosses clothe the branches. Suddenly a glimpse of bright chestnut draws your attention to the female bushbuck, and usually not far away is the shining dark, almost black, male. Bushbucks are often solitary, but in Bale anyway, Menelik’s is almost always seen in pairs or small family parties of female and young.They are extremely beautiful little animals, with a coat longer than that of other bushbucks, perhaps because of living in the lower temperatures of high altitudes. The horns, which are carried only by the male, have a spiral twist and a well-defined longitudinal ridge or keel on the front or back surfaces, and transverse rings. The record horn length is 35 cm.