by J. Blower

Ethiopia has wonderful mammals that exist no where else in the world. Mainly the country’s topography has helped them to survive in their particular niches. Here are some of them.

Simyen Fox
Ethiopian red foxSometimes misleadingly referred to as the Abyssinian wolf, the Simyen fox resembles the European fox but is slightly larger and longer in the leg.

Its general color is bright sandy red with white under parts and a black tip to the long bushy tail.

It apparently preys chiefly on the large colonies of rodents found in mountainous areas, though it doubtless kills birds and other small creatures.

An interesting and harmless animal and one of the few larger mammals unique to Ethiopia, the Simyen fox is fully protected by law. The range so far is known to Simyen and the mountains of Bale and Arussi, where they live on high moorlands at an altitude of 3000 – 4500m.

Usually seen singly or in pairs, they are fairly common in the Bale Mountains.

Gelada Baboon
Much more striking in appearance than the common Anubis baboon, the Gelada isEthiopian endemic baboon comparatively large in size and easily distinguished by its long mantle of thick silky hair, a rich chestnut brown in color, which is obviously an adaptation to the high altitudes at which the species is found.

Because of the naked patch of bright pink skin in the centre of the chest, the Gelada is sometimes known as the “sacred heart” baboon.

The old males are particularly impressive creatures, with their long flowing manes and tufted tails, and one of them can at first glance easily be mistaken for a lion.

Gelada are found on high rocky mountain tops and escarpments at an elevation of 2500 meters and over, where they may sometimes be seen in troops of several hundred.

They are noisy creatures with varied vocabulary of high pitched barks and screams. At night they roost on narrow cliff ledges, usually emerging onto the open grassy hilltops to feed during the day, where, being relatively tame, they can often be approached quite closely.

Their food consists chiefly of root and rhizomes of grass and herbs which they dig up with their hands. Gelada of both sexes have an unusual form of display which involves turning back the upper lip and exposing the pink gums and under side of the tip.

Gelada baboons occur only in Ethiopia in the high mountains to the north and west of the Rift Valley, particularly in Simyen and in the neighborhood of Debra Sina and Debre Libanos.

Swaynes Hartebeest
Ethiopian swaynes hartebeestSwaynes Hartebeest is the eastern race of the tora hartebeest from which it differs chiefly in its somewhat darker coloring, which is of a deep radish chocolate-brown with a pale fawn or cinnamon colored rump.

This species, which only half a century ago occurred in tens of thousands, is now very rare and survives only in the Alledeghi Plains, to the east of the Awash.

And few also scattered herds in the Rift Valley from Lake Zeway southwards to the region of Yabelo, the largest known population at the eastern shore of Lake Chamo. It favors fairly dry open plains and savannah woodland, where it may sometimes be seen in herds of twenty to one hundred.

Each herd is under the leadership of of the master bull hich leads the females with their young. The territory is defended by  the male.

Walia Ibex
Only two species of ibex or wild goat occur in Africa, and both are found in Ethiopia. TheEthiopian walia ibex Walia, which is the rarer of the two is confined to the Simien Mountains of the north west.

A sturdily built animal about a meter in height at the shoulder and weighing up to 120kg.

It has a thick chocolate-brown coat shading to grayish brown on the muzzle, around the eyes, on the lower flanks, legs and rump., and to pale gray or white in the belly and inner side of legs.

There is a black stripe down the outside of the legs and a white garter above each hoof. Mature males have a pronounced beard on the chin.

Horns are present in both sexes; those of the old males are massive and heavily ringed, curving backwards in a graceful arc to the withers. The females are smaller in body and lighter in color, while their much shorter and thinner horns lack the pronounced rings of the male.

Feeding on young shoots of giant heather, grass, herbs, and other vegetation, Walia are found on the precipitous crags of the Simien Mountains at a height of 25oo – 4000m.

Very agile and wary, they are usually seen on narrow inaccessible cliff ledges in small parties of from two to half a dozen, though the old males are often solitary.

Mountain Nyala
Ethiopian mountain nyalaA member of the same family of spiral horned antelope as the bushbuck and kudu, the mountain Nyala can for all practical purposes be regarded as a high altitude race of the greater kudu, which it resembles in general appearance though not quite so large.

The females are smaller and more rufous in color than the males, do not have horns and are usually devoid of flank markings.

The horns of the mature male are similar in shape to those of the kudu but are stouter and have only one and a half instead of two and half turns of the siral as in the later species.

They are keeled on the angle of the horn and the tips are white, but the surface is more or less smooth except for ridges near the base in older specimens.

The mountain Nyala is found only in Ethiopia, where its range is confined to the mountains of Arussi and Bale provinces and to the Chercher Mountains in Harar at an altitude of 2500 to 4000meters.

Though it favors the areas of giant heather and alchemilla bog on the high moorlands, it may also sometimes be found in the forest at lower altitudes. It is usually encountered in parties of up to half a dozen though the mature males are often solitary.

Menelik’s Bushbuck
Belonging to the same family as the kudu, mountain Nyala, and all of which have spirallyEthiopian menelik bushbuck shaped horns, the bush buck is the smallest member of the family; it weighs 45-75kg and stands 80-90cm in height at the shoulder.

The commonest race in Ethiopia, the Abyssinian bushbuck (top centre in plate), is a rich yellowish red to chestnut in color with a pattern of somewhat indistinct harness-like stripes spots on the flanks and a crest of black hair along the back.

Menelik’s bush buck, is somewhat larger, with a longer coat, and is much darker in color, the males being almost black with only very faint white spots on the haunches. Both races have white markings on the throat, while in some specimens there are traces of white chevron between the eyes.

The horns, which are carried only by the males, have a spiral twist and a well-defined longitudinal ridge or keel on their front and back surfaces, and are roughly triangular in section without transverse rings.

Somali Wild Ass
Ethiopian wild assThe wild ass is like the Zebra, a member of the horse family, and is the stock from which the common domestic donkey originally sprang.

However, it is a much fine rand a more impressive beast than its domesticated descendant, from which it can be distinguished by its larger size and robust appearance.

Nearly as big as a Grevy’s zebra and with much the same stocky build, the wild ass is grayish fawn in color with white markings round the eyes and muzzle, and a white belly.

Two species are found in Ethiopia; the Somali race, which occurs in the Danakil desert and which has narrow horizontal black stripes on the legs like those of a Zebra and the Nubian race, which is found in the northern Eritrea and which has a vertical black stripe across the shoulders but no distinct stripes on the legs.

Both species have long ears and an erect black mane, while the coat is short and sleek; not shaggy as in the case of the domestic donkey.

Both the Somali and Nubian races are rare animals which are seldom seen and are completely protected by law.

They are generally found in open desert country, and on the scattered lave-strewn hills which are typical of their habitat.

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