One Park, Many Worlds



Mountain nyala and other antelope species

The mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni) is not only endemic to Ethiopia, but has the distinction of being the last large antelope described in Africa (it was first discovered in 1908). Adult male mountain nyalas can weigh up to 280 kg and stand about 1.5 m at the shoulder, making them a remarkably large and stunning encounter. Visitors need only take an evening walk around the juniper and Hagenia woodlands around the park lodge to get a glimpse of this Ethiopian endemic at close range. The animals are shy but plentiful in this small enclave outside the main boundary of the park. Trips to the Gaysay Valley at the northern extreme of the park will also reveal numerous groups of mountain nyala along with warthogs, Bohor reedbuck, grey duiker, and Menelik’s bushbuck (an endemic subspecies).
The mountain nyala survives only south of the Rift Valley in the Bale and Arsi Mountains and in parts of the Chercher Mountains further east. In the Bale Mountains they are known to occur in several partially disjunct populations inside the park and areas to the east and west; they are also suspected to inhabit areas on the southern slopes of the massif and Harenna forest. The northern grasslands and shrublands of the Gaysay Valley in the National Park itself and the nearby park headquarters support the highest density of mountain nyala in the Bale Mountains. Population estimates for the whole Bale massif (inside and outside the park) have been estimated anywhere from 1500 to 3000 animals. Despite this uncertainly about the current population size, there is little doubt that the species has gradually declined since the mountain nyala’s status was first assessed during Leslie Brown’s expeditions to the Bale Mountains in the 1960s.

Ethiopian wolves
The Bale Mountains also host the largest population of the endemic and endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). With approximately 500 animals remaining throughout the country, the Ethiopian wolf is arguably the rarest and most imperiled wild canid in Africa, if not the world. The species exists in only seven small, isolated mountain ranges in Ethiopia, the largest of which is in the Bale Mountains. Sightings of this handsome canid are virtually guaranteed in BMNP, especially for those who visit the Web Valley or Sanetti Plateau. An estimated 300-350 Ethiopian wolves inhabit the vast expanse of Afroalpine habitat above 3000 m asl in the Bale Mountains. This is over half the total global population of the species. During the breeding season (October to February) Ethiopian wolf pups are easily observed and there is always plenty of playful activity by adults and pups around the packs’ dens. Visit the section on research for more information about the current state of knowledge about Ethiopian wolves.

Afroalpine rodents and small mammals
The Afroalpine is dominated by a staggeringly high density of rodents – the primary food item for the Ethiopian wolf – with some estimates as high as 29 kg/ha.  Out of the 16 species of rodents found in the BMNP, eight are endemic to Ethiopia and one, the giant molerat, is endemic to the Bale Mountains. The enigmatic giant molerat, which weigh roughly 1 kg each, is the preferred food item of Ethiopian wolves in the Bale Mountains. The Bale shrew and Starck’s hare (both endemic to Ethiopia) are also found here. The abundant rodent and small mammal fauna of the Bale Mountains is also primarily responsible for sustaining the incredibly high density of raptors found in the Afroalpine ecosystem.

(pictures of giant mole rat, grass rat, and raptors)

The Harenna forest mammals
The largely unexplored Harenna forest harbours a completely different variety of flora and fauna to that found on the Afroalpine plateau. Multi-disciplinary research expeditions are needed to learn more about the fascinating ecosystems within the moist-tropical, bamboo and cloud forests and the species they sustain. Among those species already known to dwell here, black and white colobus monkeys, baboons, bushbuck, warthog, giant forest hog, and bushpig are common. Nocturnal animals include genets, civets, bush babies and hyenas. Lucky visitors might also get a glimpse of lions, leopards, or wild dogs. The Bale monkey is also a rare but sought after sighting – this is a little known primate restricted to the upper bamboo and mixed-bamboo forests of the northern Harenna forest. It is considered endemic to the Bale Mountains and only recently have researchers begun to acquire much needed information about the status, distribution and ecology of this unique species.
(picture of Harenna forest, forest mammals)

Endemic mammals of the Bale Mountains

Dendromus lovati Lovat's mouse
Megadendromus nikolausi Nikolaus' mouse
Mus mahomet Mahomet's mouse
Praomys albipes White-footed rat
Stenocephalemys albocaudata White-tailed rat
Stenocephalemys griseicauda Grey-tailed rat
Arvicanthis blicki Blick's grass rat
Lophuromys melanonyx Harsh-furred rat
Tachyoryctes macrocephalus Giant molerat
Crocidura baileyi Bale shrew
Lepus starki Stark's hare
Canis simensis Ethiopian wolf
Tragelaphus buxtoni Mountain nyala
Cercopithecus aethiops djamdjamensis Bale Monkey

The Bale Mountains are considered Ethiopia’s most important bird area (IBA) with over 280 bird species recorded here, including seasonal concentrations of water birds and a diverse raptor assemblage. The varied array of bird habitats (including grasslands, woodlands, forests, moorlands, wetlands, and alpine lakes) in BMNP make it of extreme ornithological importance. Seven of Ethiopia’s seventeen endemic bird species are found in Bale, The park also has the Bale parisoma which has yet to be sighted outside the Bale Mountains as well as a number of species endemic only to the Abyssinian highlands (Ethiopia and Eritrea). Seven globally threatened bird species can been seen here, including the greater spotted eagle,  imperial eagle, lesser kestrel, and wattled crane as well as the near threatened pallid harrier, Rouget’s rail, and Abyssinian longclaw. Augur buzzards, black eagles, tawny eagles, steppe eagles, lanner falcons, and bearded vultures are part of the diverse raptor assemblage found here, as well as the only sub-saharan population of golden eagle and the southern-most breeding population of red-billed chough.

(picture of birds)

Endemic birds of the Bale Mountains

Macronyx flavicollis Abyssinian longclaw
Poicephalus flavifrons Yellow-fronted parrot
Vanellus melanocephalus Spot-breasted plover
Serinus nigriceps Black-headed siskin
Parophasma galinieri Abyssinian catbird
Dendropicos abyssinicus Abyssinian woodpecker
Parisoma greaventris Bale parisoma

Amphibians and reptiles
The amphibians and reptiles of Ethiopia remain two of the country’s most poorly understood taxonomic groups. Approximately 70 amphibian species occur in Ethiopia - almost half of which are found nowhere else in the world, and in the highlands of Bale 17 amphibian species have so far been recorded, although it is likely that a number of other species exist here - yet to be discovered. In fact, the Bale Mountains are remarkable for their high levels of amphibian endemicity, boasting five genera and twelve species of amphibians endemic to Ethiopia. Five lizards and seven snakes have been recorded from the Bale Mountains, but there must surely be many more still to be discovered. Four frogs and two chameleons are apparently endemic to Bale, never yet having been found anywhere else in Ethiopia or the world.

Endemic amphibians in the Bale Mountains

Spinophrynoides osgoodi *
Balebreviceps hillmani**
Ptychadena cooperi *
Ptychadena erlangeri *
Ptychadena harenna **
Ptychadena neumanni *
Ericabatrachus baleensis **
Leptopelis gramineus *
Leptopelis ragazzii *
Paracassina kounhiensis *
Afrixalus enseticola *

(*Ethiopian endemic; ** Bale Mountains endemic)

Endemic reptiles in the Bale Mountains

Chamaeleo balebicornutus **
Chamaeleo harennae **
Lamprophis erlangeri *
Bitis parviocula *

(*Ethiopian endemic; ** Bale Mountains endemic)

Major features of the BMNP - one of the most important protected areas in Africa:
Largest piece of Afroalpine in the world (1000 km2 of area over 3000 m asl)
Second largest stand of moist tropical forest in Ethiopia and only cloud forest in the country
Part of Conservation International’s Eastern Afro-Montane Biodiversity Hotspot
Over half the global population of endangered and endemic Ethiopian wolves – the rarest canid in the world
The largest population of endangered  and endemic mountain nyala and the only population found within a National Park
The most important bird area (IBA) in Ethiopia with over 280 bird species recorded
Rare and locally endemic amphibian and reptile species
Wetlands and rivers sustaining 12 million downstream users in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia
Wild stocks of coffee (Coffea arabica) indigenous to Ethiopia – ‘the birth place of coffee’
An estimated 40% of Ethiopia’s medicinal plant species of enormous socio-economic value
Other natural resources of important used locally, nationally and internationally
Important carbon sink nationally and potential global climate change monitoring site

Bale Mountains National Park