Fauna and Flora: Overview
Ethiopia is one of the world’s rich biodiversity countries and it deserves attention, regionally and globally. It has a very diverse set of ecosystems ranging from humid forests and extensive wetlands to the desert of the Afar depression. This is due to the variation in climate, topography and vegetation.
Ethiopia is one of the twelve known ancient countries for crop plant diversities in the world and has valuable reserves of crop genetic diversity, of which 11 cultivated crops have their centre of diversity in the country. The extensive and unique conditions in the highlands of the country have contributed to the presence of a large number of endemic species.
The flora of Ethiopia is very diverse with an estimated number between 6,500 and 7,000 species of higher plants, of which about 15 percent are endemic. It has been said that Ethiopia is the fifth largest floral country in tropical Africa. Both Teff – a durable grain –, and coffee – Ethiopia’s trademark crops – are grown in the highlands.
Teff (Erogrostis Tef)
This hardy grain provides Ethiopians with the majority of their food needs. An endemic plant, it was first cultivated in the highlands between 4,000 and 1,000 BC. It is most frequently served as Injera.
Coffee (Coffea Arabica)
A highlands native, coffee is Ethiopia’s main export. It is widely agreed that Ethiopians were the first people to cultivate coffee plants for use as a beverage. Ethiopian legend attributes the discovery of coffee’s caffeine kick to a 9th century goat–herd whose animals began acting strangely after eating coffee berries. He, in turn, sampled some, and a beverage was born.
Ensete (Ensete Edulis)
A close relative of the banana, Ensete is grown primarily in Ethiopia’s Gurage region. This tall, thick, rubbery plant is a highland native and is used by the peoples of the Gurage, Sidamo, Dorze, Wellayta and so on for everything from roofs to bread.
Ensete’s leaf stems and inner bark can be ground into an edible paste.
Ethiopian Rose (Rosa Abyssinica)
Africa’s only rose, the cream–colored Ethiopian rose can be found throughout the highlands. Its edible fruits, high in vitamins, are regularly eaten in times of food shortages. The berries also are used to fight tapeworm in humans.
Red–Hot Poker (Kniphofia Uvaria)
This perennial plant requires full sun light to bloom. Its orange, spear–shaped flowers attract humming birds that can munch away at the flowers.
Hagenia (Hagenia Abyssinica)
Also known as Kousso, reaching heights of 20 ft., this Ethiopian native produces a fragrant greenish or purplish flower that, taken in powdered form and diluted with water, can be used to kill tapeworms.
After deforestation stripped Addis Ababa nearly clean of trees, the Australian eucalyptus was the substitute. The tree is also found throughout highland villages. Eucalyptus trees can grow as high as 300 ft. Their leaves are leathery and hang vertically; their fruit sits in a wooden base. They are excellent for providing shade, but they are also used for fuel and for buildings and fences. Their bark can be used in papermaking and tanning.
Ethiopia is also rich in its fauna diversity. The larger mammals are mainly concentrated in the south and southwest border and adjacent areas of the country. There are also plentiful plains games along the stretch of the Great Rift Valley system. Mountain massifs in the north are also home to many endemic species of mammals, particularly the Walia Ibex, Simien Fox and Gelada Baboon.
There are about 280 mammal species recorded in Ethiopia, at list 40 of them are found nowhere else in the world. This includes:–
- Ethiopian Wolf (Simien Mountain National Park)
- Mountain Nyala (Bale Mountain National Park)
- Walia Ibex (Simien Mountain National Park)
- Glada Baboon (Simien Mountain National Park and Jemma Valley)
- Wild Ass (Yangudi–Rassa National Park)
- Bale Mountains Vervet (Bale Mountain National Park)
- Swaynes’s Heartbeast (Senkelle Sanctuary and Nechisar National Park)
- Menelik’s Bushback (Bale Mountains and Awash National Park)
- and the rest are Bats, Rodents, Shrews, Rats, and Hares
There are about 861 species of birds and 19 of them are found nowhere else in the world:–
Harwood’s Francolin, Wattled Ibis, Spot–Breasted Lapwing, Yellow–Fronted Parrot, Ruspoli’s Turaco, Nechisar Nightjar, Abyssinian Black–Headed Oriole, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, White–Backed Black Tit, White–Tailed Swallow, Sidamo Lark, Degodi Bushlark, Abyssinian Catbird, Ethiopian Aurora Finch, Abyssinian Long claw, Ankober Serin, Yellow–Throated Seedeater, Ethiopian Siskin, Salvadori’s Seedeater.
There are about 201 reptile species and 13 of them are endemic in Ethiopia— over 87 snakes, 101 lizards and 13 species of tortoises and turtles.
Ethiopia has 145 species of freshwater fish and among these 33 species are found nowhere else in the world. In addition to these, about 324 butterfly and 63 amphibian species are known in Ethiopia.