Ethiopian Highlands

A large group of geladas on a grassy spot with mountains behind.
Ethiopian Highlands

Survivors

Formed from the remains of volcanoes in northeastern Africa, these highlands have towering peaks, grassy plateaus, rich valleys, and hot deserts. The plant and animal species here are specially adapted to life in a dry, windy, and sometimes chilly climate.

Roof of Africa

Some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet are found here, with soaring crags and pinnacles described as “the chess pieces of the gods.” Where the peaks fall away, the cleft of the Rift Valley is revealed below.

Thank You Kaffa

The southern parts of the Ethiopian Highlands were once home to the Kingdom of Kaffa, a medieval early modern state. The coffee plant was exported from there to the Arabian peninsula, and the name coffee is said to trace back to Kaffa.

15

amphibian and reptile species native to this habitat

20

mammal species found only in the Ethiopian Highlands region

13,000

the upper elevation in feet of the mountain formations

Facial close-up of hamadryas baboon

HEADLINER
Hamadryas Baboon

Rock Me Hamadryas

Rocking big hair and an attitude, Hamadryas baboons have mastered life in their rugged, wind-swept habitat in the mountains of Ethiopia. They are hardcore, able to survive in dry, semi-desert conditions. When a male yawns to show off his huge canine teeth, it’s a clear message that these guys are not to be messed with!

Hamadryas troop on a rocky ledge

Day Trippers

Hamadryas baboons scale sheer cliff faces to spend the night in the safety of craggy ledges. When the sun comes up, groups gather to begin their daily march. They scramble down the cliffs to spend the day foraging, and then return in the late afternoon to catch some z’s.

Hamadryas male with females

Leader of the Band

In hamadryas baboon society, a dominant male leads a family unit of up to 10 females and their young. These units come together to form bands, and multiple bands meet up to form a troop, which can number up to 100. For these primates, there is definitely strength and safety in numbers!

Ancient Egyptian carving of hamadryas in stone.

Ancient Groupies

In ancient Egypt, the hamadryas baboon was worshipped as an incarnation of the god Thoth. In hieroglyphic writings, the baboon figure is clearly depicted, sometimes meaning “sacred baboon,” but other times meaning “to be angry.” One fierce look from an annoyed male and you can see why!

ALSO
STARRING

Close-up of Gelada with its head turned to the side, showing the distinctive red mark on the chest

Gelada

A long mane of silky hair and a red, hourglass-shaped patch of skin on the chest give this unique primate definite stage presence. On a male, color intensity equals status; the one with the reddest patch usually gets the girls. As the only grazing primate, geladas love their grass.

Close up of Nubian ibex against a rocky background

Nubian Ibex

With their prominent and impressive headgear, these members of the goat family would definitely fit in the horn section. You don’t want to mess with an ibex—males are territorial, weigh up to 110 pounds, and are not known for a laid-back attitude!

close up of blooms on a red hot poker tree

Red-hot Poker Tree

A red-hot poker tree is a habitat changer. It creates a shady place for other plants to flourish, nourishes the soil, and attracts pollinators. Animals feast on and rest under the tree. Their dung—which fertilizes the earth—deposits undigested seeds that sprout in the friendly environment.