Giant Mole Rat
Giant Mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus), also known as the giant root rat, plays a much more serious role in the ecology of the Afro alpine communities of Ethiopia. It is endemic to Ethiopia, where it is confined to high altitude shrub and grasslands in the Afro alpine habitat of the Bale Mountains (3000 – 4377 meter). Their present distribution may be only a fraction of their former range as a result of their specialization to montane habitats, which are shrinking, as well as to increased isolation between populations.
Sixteen to twenty – nine centimeters long and weighing 160 – 600 grams, the burrowing activities of the giant mole rat have an important effect on Afro alpine ecology, soil movement and soil formation processes. The mole rat is fossorial (adapted to digging), living in discrete individual burrow systems. These tunnel systems have been observed to be more than 90 meters long, covering an area greater than 360 meters square. In the Bale Mountains, the giant mole rat also forms an important part of the diet of the Ethiopian wolf.
The mole rat spends, on average, an hour above ground during the day, primarily between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. They become vulnerable to wolves when they emerge to collect vegetation, which they gather indiscriminately from around their burrow entrance while their hindquarters remain below ground. Once finished browsing, they again retreat into their deep burrows. At night, they plug their burrow entrances with soil to help regulate burrow temperatures. The mole rat is most active during the day and basks in the warmth of the sun to regulate body temperatures. In combination, these behaviors make the giant mole rat well adapted to survive in the harsh Afro alpine climate.
Other Endemic Mammals
Endemic to Ethiopia, Walia Ibex, formerly widespread in the northern mountain massifs, but now restricted to the Simien Mountains National Park, where it is uncommon but quite often seen by hikers.
Ethiopia’s one fully endemic antelope species is the Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus Buxtoni). The mountain Nyala is similar in size and shape to the Greater Kudu but it has smaller horns with only one twist as opposed to the greater Kudu’s two or three. The shaggy coat of the Mountain Nyala is brownish rather than plain grey, and the striping is indistinct. This elegant and handsome antelope live in herds of five to ten animals in juniper and hagenia forests in the southeast highland.
Belonging to the same family as the Mountain Nyala, the Bushbuck shares with them the family characteristic of shy and elusive behavior. Over forty races of Bushbuck have been identified, which vary considerably both from the point of view of...
This beautiful animal was once widespread over the Ethiopian plateau lands and was often observed by travelers with its fine red coat shining in the sun, making it easy to spot against the greens and browns of the grasslands. Its frightening decline in numbers is due not only to indiscriminate shooting, but also to outbreaks of rabies, which certainly decimated its numbers in the Simien area. In this part of Ethiopia it is now extremely rare, even rarer than the Walia Ibex, but it has another stronghold, in Bale, which the Walia doesn’t.
The striking and unmistakable most common of Ethiopia’s endemic large mammal species, with a population estimated by some to be as high as 700,000. The male Gelada is a spectacular handsome and unmistakable beast, possessed of an imposing golden mane and heart shaped red chest patch, which serve the same purpose as the colorful buttocks or testicles found on those African monkeys that don’t spend most of their lives sitting on their bums.
Swayne’s Hartebeest lives in open country, light bush, sometimes in tall savanna woodland. These are social animals and are normally seen in herds of 4 – 15, up to thirty. Each herd is under the leadership of the master bull which leads the females with their young. The territory is defended by the male; you may often see them grazing peacefully, with the bull on slightly higher ground acting as sentinel for his herd.