Ethiopia is the home of a great number of wild animals and plants typical of different altitudes and climates.
Ethiopia’s biodiversity is unique even when compared to its neighbors. There are over 6,000 species of plants, 277 species of mammals, out of which 35 endemic species, and more than 800 species of birds. Ethiopian vegetation is intricately linked to the country’s climate and geography. Highland uplift and rift formation caused by volcanic forces created novel ecosystems with varying terrain and climatic conditions, which have become drivers for vegetation diversification.
Ethiopia has one of the greatest and most diverse plant genetic and wild animal resources in the world, thanks to extreme variations in climate, terrain, and other factors, as well as various ecological systems that are conducive to evolution. Ethiopia’s biotic assemblage includes both afrotropical and Palearctic biota because to its relationship with the temperate biome in the north and the Arabian Peninsula during the dry glacial period. Based on height and climate gradients, Ethiopia has been divided into eight main plant types. Ethiopia is naturally diverse, with over 6500 species of vascular plants. Due to geographical isolation and distinct environmental circumstances, 12 percent of these species are endemic. However, researchers have yet to conduct comprehensive research into the ecology, phenology, evolutionary, genetic, and conservation status of Ethiopian forests at the community and species levels over time and space.
1. Desert and semi-desert scrubland – the Dankalia region, Omo Delta and Ogaden Desert all fall into this category. Vegetation is characterised by highly drought-resistant plants, such as small trees, shrubs and grasses.
2. Small leaved deciduous forest – woodlands that can be found all over the country (except the West) at an altitude of 900-1900 meters. Vegetation consists of drought-tolerant shrubs, but also trees, like various types of acacia.
3. Broad leaved deciduous forest – these forests occur mainly in the western and north-western parts of the country. Bamboo can also be found here – in the western valleys. Elephants, buffalos and common elands exist here.
4. Moist evergreen forest – in the south-western and western parts of the country. They are forests consisting of tall and medium-sized trees. Since it is more tropical, the birdlife here is very colourful and abundant.
5. Lowland semi-evergreen forest – this is the area around Gambela. Vegetation consists of semi-evergreen trees and shrubs and also grasses. Wildlife includes elephants, giraffes and lions.
6. Dry evergreen montane forest and grassland – covering much of the highlands in the North, North-west, central and Southern parts of the country. This habitat is home to a large number of endemic plants. Africa’s only rose, the Rosa Abyssinica is found here.
7. Afro-Alpine vegetation – this habitat is found in the national parks of the Bale, Guassa Plateau and Simien Mountains. Very special here is the heather, growing into large trees of up to 10 meters (instead of growing close to the ground).
8. Wetlands – these can occur along the Baro River and around Gambela in the West, but also in highlands and the North-west. Here fig-trees and tamarind trees grow along riverbanks. Crocodiles and hippos inhabit many rivers and the birdlife is particularly abundant here.
Some of the most impressing animals found in Ethiopia also include the Abyssinian lion. The Lion is the principal terrestrial predator in Africa and therefore a key species of the savannah ecosystem. The Abyssinian Lion found in Ethiopia has a large, dark mane, extending from the head, neck and chest to the belly. He is also smaller and more compact than other lions. Recently, it was established by scientists that these lions represent a genetically distinct population of the common African lion. An Abyssinian Lion breeding park is located in the National Palace and Park in Addis Ababa. The animal was a symbol for the patriotic Ethiopian independence (Black Lion Movement). Besides of the Elephants and Abyssinian lions, there are a number of charismatic and endemic “flagship” species in Ethiopia, most notably the Gelada Baboon (an endemic genus and the world’s only grazing primate), which can be found in the Simien Mountains. His friendly attitude towards tourists make him easy to observe. The Mountain Nyala (Simien Mountains), the extremely rare Ethiopian Wolf (Red Fox), the Walia Ibex (endemic to Simien Mountains), the Swayne’s Hartebeest, the African Wild Ass and the Dibatag (an antelope of the desert areas of Ogaden) are also present in different parts of Ethiopia. Zebra can be found in the the southern part of the country. Some reptiles are found only in Ethiopia, including the Bale Mountains Heather Chameleon, the Bale Mountains Two- horned Chameleon and the Ethiopian Mountain Chameleon.
Ethiopia is particularly well-known for its wonderful and unique birdlife, which is appreciated by bird-lovers. Birds are numerous, diverse, very colorful and easy to observe. About sixteen out of the 862 species recorded in the country are found no where else on earth but in Ethiopia. Of the ten bird family’s endemic to the African mainland, eight of them are found in Ethiopia. Among the endemic birds, the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Black-winged Lovebird and White-collared Pigeon are notably common over extensive areas of the plateau. As they are big, readily identifiable and not timid, they are easy to see and observe frequently at a close range. Even in the highland forests, which support comparatively few endemic species of birds, the endemics are ubiquitous.