AFROALPINE HIGHLANDS ► The Bale Mountains
The Bale Mountains National Park is the best place in the world to view Ethiopian wolves and it can be a very rewarding experience. The animals usually forage solitarily on the open grasslands of Sanetti and the Web Valley, spending the early morning and evenings interacting with their pack fellows. Even though the open valleys of Bale do not appear to be ideal wildlife habitat, they are very productive. The varied vegetation supports a very high biomass of grass rats and molerats on which the wolves and many raptors feed.
The Bale Mountains, lying southeast of the Rift Valley, is the largest area of Afroalpine habitat on the continent with over 4,000 km² above 3,000 m. This is a high and extensive massif that sustain a wide representation of habitats across vegetation belts, from the montane forests of Harenna to the short Afroalpine meadows of the Sanetti Plateau. The Bale Mountains National Park protects about 2,000km2 of one of the most intact remnants of Ethiopia’s indigenous vegetation.
The highest concentrations of Ethiopian wolves are found in extensive rolling short grasslands and valley meadows typified by the Sanetti Plateau and Web Valley. These open landscapes are dominated by the activity of rodents and by frost-induced soil movements. The burrowing of the giant molerat and cryoturbation keeps the vegetation in permanent pioneer stages, dominated by short herbs and grasses. These open grasslands support a high biomass of rodents, in the order of 2,000 - 3,000 kilograms per km². Wolves are less common on the drier southern declivity of the plateau, in the rain shadow of Tullu Deemtu (at 4,377m the highest mountain in southern Ethiopia), and in the lava flows of the Central Peaks dminanted bt the less fertile ericaceous moorlands.
Areas below 3,200 m on the northern side of the Bale Mounatins are heavily cultivated with remnant Juniper forests. To the south large areas of closed canopy montane forest persist (the Harenna Forest). Hagenia/Hypericum woodland remnants occurs close to the treeline in all areas between 3,200-3,500 m, grading into heathlands from about 3,400-3,800 m. Afroalpine habitat extends to the summits. The vegetation along the Web Valley, which drains a large area in the north eastern part of the range, is exceptional. A wide valley in the upper part of the drainage at 3,500 m is covered with afroalpine habitat. Lower down at 3,000 m edaphic grasslands in the Gaysay Valley provides wolf habitat at an unusually low elevation.
The Bale Mountains are home to the largest of the populations of two Ethiopian endemics: the mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni) and the Ethiopian wolf, as well as the latter’s varied rodent prey, of which many are locally evolved (Table).
Oromo people and their livestock live in or use these montins and some cultivation occurs in most areas up to 3,500 m. In core wolf areas in the upper Web Valley ploughing has been tried but has not persisted. In the Web valley there are permanent settlements of pastoralists and houses as high as 4,000 m in other areas. People and livestock travel across the mountains, visiting the mineral rich springs called horas.
|Endemic mammals found in 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||black-clawed mouse|
|Tachyoryctes macrocephalus||giant molerat|
|Lepus starki||Stark's hare|
|Canis simensis||Ethiopian wolf|
|Tragelaphus buxtoni||mountain nyala|