Thirty-one mammals are found only in Ethiopia. Amazing creatures are tucked away in the many eco-regions of the country that has such varied terrain: mountains, plateaus, river valleys, deserts, lakes, and rivers that allow for the survival of animals that can’t be spotted anywhere else in the world. As one example, the Ethiopian wolf – which DNA analysis has shown to be closely related to gray wolves – is one of Earth’s rarest canines. Unfortunately, it is also one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, a plight shared by many of the animals found only inside Ethiopia’s borders. Fewer than 500 wolves now live in the Afroalpine ecosystem that is also home to many other species that live only in Ethiopia, including the Walia Ibex.
Wild donkeys used to be found in several countries around the Horn of Africa. Now they are believed to exist in the wild only in Ethiopia, mostly on the plains of the Afar region. Other fascinating species, such as gelada baboons (with their distinctive red heart-shaped markings), make their home in high mountain ranges. The resourceful baboons use their stumpy fingers to skillfully climb rocks and at night huddle together on ledges to sleep. Long ago, many grazing primates roamed the Earth. These grass-eating survivors are the only ones left out of all the ancient bands. Interestingly, gelada baboons often allow Ethiopian wolves to hunt within their herds, where the wolves are twice as likely to capture their prey.
Conservation efforts are underway to save many endemic mammals – including the Black Lion – for future generations to be able to appreciate. In 2020, for example, a seriously wounded Ethiopian wolf was rescued and later reunited with its pack. People are also working to save endangered birds such as the Liban Lark and White-winged Flufftail. Even children are being trained to help, learning to watch for ground nests when young herders are with grazing animals in the fields.
Tourists who are birders love to spend time in Ethiopia where in a three-week period, they might see 500 different species. Deserts, tropical forests, mountain forests, plants in a wide range of altitudes provide food and shelter for these colorful flyers. The yellow-fronted parrot has a yellow head and green wings. Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco has a red beak and a blue tail. They are two of the birds that live only in Ethiopia. One bird species that is sometimes labeled the rarest bird in the world, the Nechisar Nightjar, was identified by a wing that was gathered by a group of scientists in 1990 and has been the subject of an intense hunt to track it down.
Finally, reptile species can also be found in Ethiopia and nowhere else, including the Bale Mountains Heather Chameleon, Two-horned Chameleon and the Ethiopian Mountain Chameleon. Endemic snakes and lizards inhabit their special niches in parts of Ethiopia, and two gecko species can be spotted only in the northern semi-desert eco-region where rainfall is very low, and temperatures are high.
Whether they are mysterious or well-known, the endemic animals of Ethiopia are a fascinating group of flyers, crawlers, runners, and creepers to share the world with humans. You can learn more about them through these amazing books: