The Afromontane forests and moorlands of Ethiopia protect some of Africa’s rarest and most alluring large mammal species, while lower-lying savannah reserves are home to more typical safari wildlife such as lions and elephants.
The world’s rarest wild dog, the endangered Ethiopian wolf is a handsome red-and-white carnivore that feeds mainly on rodents such as the giant mole-rat. Around half the global population of this Ethiopian endemic is centered on Bale Mountains National Park, while other strongholds include the Simien Mountains National Park and Guassa Community Conservation Area.
Bale Mountain National Park is also the main stronghold for the endemic mountain nyala, a large spiral-horned antelope associated with fragrant juniper-hagenia forest, and the sole preserve of the Bale monkey, whose tiny range is attributable to its specialized diet of bamboo.
Simien Mountain National Park is traversed by troops of several hundred gelada baboons, a striking Ethiopian endemic rendered unmistakable by the male’s flowing lion-like mane and heart-shaped red chest patch. Unique among living primates in that it feeds predominantly on grass, the cliff-roosting gelada is also often seen in other suitable habitats in northern Ethiopia, such as the Muger Gorge, Debre Libanos Monastery, and Guassa Community Conservation Area.
The only goat indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, the endangered Walia ibex, notable for the massive decurved horns sported by all adults, is associated with narrow cliff ledges in the Simien Mountains. It came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s when the population dropped to below 200, but the ban on hunting has seen numbers rise back to 1,200 in recent years.
Primates are well represented throughout Ethiopia, whether it be the black-and-white colobus that swings acrobatically through the forests of the western highlands, the mischievous vervet (grivet) monkeys that frequent riparian woodland along the Rift Valley lakes, or the Hamadryas and Anubis baboons characteristic of more open habitats such as Awash National Park.
As with many African countries, lion, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, and other typical safari wildlife is now more or less restricted to a few protected areas, notably Chebera-Churchura, Mago, Omo, and Gambella National Parks.