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ethiopian highlands: eco info: animals

bird Known as the "African Alps," this craggy, isolated region is a bird lover's heaven. It also has one of Africa's largest native animal populations. Most highland fauna live in the Simien and Bale National Parks, the home of such celebrity mammals as the gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf.

WALIA IBEX (Capra ibex walie) :

WALIA IBEX This endangered wild goat lives on narrow mountain ledges in the Simien Mountains and sports large curved horns that, in males, can reach more than 3 ft. Hunted widely for its meat - particularly during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia during World War II - the walia ibex had an estimated population of 500 by the late 1990s. It has no natural predators.

GELADA BABOON (Theropithecus gelada):

GELADA BABOON Also known as the lion baboon, the gelada is the most common of Ethiopia's large native mammals. It can be found throughout the Simien mountains, but also outside of Addis Ababa in the Muga Valley Gorge. Geladas live in harem-like organizations made up of 400 members. They feed on roots, leaves and tubers. Males can weigh up to 44 lbs and stand just over two-feet tall. The color of the heart-shaped patch on their chests indicates degree of virility in males, and fertility in females. Compared with other baboons, they are far less aggressive toward humans.

MOUNTAIN NYALA (Tragelaphus buxtoni):

MOUNTAIN NYALA The last mammal species in the world to be scientifically classified (in 1919), the mountain nyala, an endemic antelope, is confined to the forests of the Bale National Park, primarily around Lake Zwai. Until 1908, its existence was unknown. The park's estimated population of 4,000 is now considered endangered. Mountain nyalas congregate in herds of five to ten animals. They can stand over 3 1/2 ft. tall at the shoulder and sport shaggy, brownish-grey coats with sporadic white stripes.

ETHIOPIAN WOLF (Canis simensis):

ETHIOPIAN WOLF Perhaps the best known of Ethiopia's endemic animal species, the Ethiopian wolf is now hovering on the brink of extinction. It has graced two series of Ethiopian postage stamps and is regularly used as a national symbol. The first written mention of Ethiopian wolves dates to the 13th century, when records indicate that they were widespread and friendly to humans. A widespread superstition, however, holds that the wolf brings bad luck to any human whose path it crosses. By the late 1990s, there were believed to be about 400 wolves left in the Bale and Simien mountains. Ethiopian wolves tend to travel in packs of six members and feed mostly on rodents, particularly the giant molerat, another native of the Bale mountains.

WATTLED IBIS (Bostrychia carunculata) (illus):

WATTLED IBIS An Ethiopian native, the wattled ibis is a sociable bird (usually travelling in flocks of 50 to 100 members) and its resounding "haa-haa-haa-haa" call can be heard from miles away. The wattled ibis can be found at elevations above 5,000 ft., primarily along rivers with overhanging cliffs, but also in open savannas and among clumps of juniper, hagenia and giant heath. They are very common throughout the Bale National Park and have appeared on Ethiopian stamps. In March, April, July and December, the birds build their nests of sticks, bark and moss in groups on cliffs. They use their long pointy beaks to dine on ground-level insects. It has a 12" to 14" wingspan.

BLUE-WINGED GOOSE (Cyanochen cyanoptera) (illus):

BLUE-WINGED GOOSE Another bird with its own postage stamp, the blue-winged goose favors the wet, marshy areas at an elevation of at least 6,000 ft. No matter what it is doing, the blue-winged goose likes to rest its neck on its back The birds congregate in flocks of 50 to 100 birds and build their nests in the highland moorlands in March, April, June and September. The blue-winged goose has a 12" to 15" wingspan.

Wattled Ibis Photo Credit/Copyright: Lieuwe Dijksen

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