By the Misrak Kirs Association, to the Regional States of Oromia and Harari.
Mt Kundudo, fief of endangered feral horses and of one of the finest caves in Africa
Harar is the main attraction along the newly proposed cultural, historic and naturalistic route of the Ethiopian East, linked to Somaliland and Djibouti through a set of new and known attractions.
Wide discoveries in the fields of speleology, or cave science, archaeology, history are being made as we map resources for tourism along the route.
Towns and trade posts are being uncovered, together with ancient Chinese pottery and coins, clearly pointing to the fact our eastern route was an ancient path for long distance, significant trade and movement of peoples.
A first DNA test indicates the Argobba peoples around Harar and on the way along the escarpment to the Christian highlands are of genuine and ancient Arab descent, the research is ongoing.
The evident research interest to reconstruct our past takes a new dimension as members of the newly formed Misrak Kirs/Eastern Heritage association propose action stemming from the finds, to turn them into potential revenue for impoverished locals. As rains fail, our will to convert what we believe was the main medieval silk route to a string of related sustainable tourism venues only increases.
Yet climatically dangerous and economically disastrous forest and environmental destruction is continuing along the route.
We believe tree planting combined with environmental education is the present best use, as well as a favourite means to increase now very limited resources to realize and promote the tourism route. Well organized, education related reforestation is a prime source of donations.
Found caves are so far good for cave specialists, attractive hotels are lacking in Harar itself, some areas are potentially dangerous; our idea is still on a hard upward slope. Finishing the last forests, destroying, as sadly is happening town ruins and amazing rock paintings will make it utterly impossible.
Conservation is our must, even before promotion of the resources in our East.
The magic slopes of Kundudo, fief of Africa’s most ancient feral horses, covering Africa’s most astounding newly found cave, descending to a dozen of special rock painting sites have been practically totally deforested in the last 15 years. Sacred mount Hakim, overlooking Harar, had already met a similar fate.
Community forestry is our first choice.
We need to use existing tree nurseries, work with the local administration to organize sensitization on ecological issues like tree planting, climate change, erosion, practical uses of original trees.
Original trees will be planted in five areas, to save and extend areas where the vegetation has been rescued or is still somewhat pristine. In a knowingly, studied natural way. No line planting!
Original noted species include Olive, Juniperus, Ficus, Podocarpus, Cordia and many shrubs yet to be better defined.
Ficus vasta, Warka.
We will plant, after shared local courses, all of the above, in five areas, covering around 30 hectares around the Kundudo. The effort is great, yet the original recently lost Mederro State Forest covered over 9000 hectares. The area, with the exception of lower, flatter and fertile area dedicated now to vital chat fields will recover over less than 30 years, considerably if not fully, if simply let to grow naturally.
Left alone, not pondered daily by pastors extirpating any new leaf, from the root, to feed cattle at home. Kundudo and environs, a set of five proposed intervention areas
Protection will mean all five indicated areas will be at least partially fenced, local participants will include paid guards, other areas as ecolodges, village green areas will be secluded to avoid arson, felling, trampling, grazing and uprooting of regrowth.
We intend to create a model and a method to replicate it over the area. One example is the activity of the Wukro mission and local administration in TIgray. The example of Abba Angel, a Spaniard, has permitted a green revolution there, seeing the town rejuvenated with green and the province endowed with the astounding figure of eight million trees, over a decade, ecological river basin improvements and irrigation schemes that feed thousands. A similar... endemic example is that of Aba Gebresilasie Kidane, a tree planting monk from Lalibela.
Abba Angel Olaran and Prof. Marco of Misrak Kirs evaluating a new dam
Wukro. Angel watering trees with locals and volunteers he formed.
We are not yet ready to replicate on the Kundudo efforts and successes in Wukro, yet we intend to try hard.
Irrigation could be a distinct, further project.
As to Mt. Hakim, a more limited 2500m altitude area just above Harar, its relatively flat top areas have long since been cultivated. While one or two areas will be earmarked for original tree planting, eucalyptus or other rapidly growing cash plantations are envisaged Mt. Hakim’s views are spectacular. The historic and ritual sense of the sacred Harari mount commands trees.
We intend to mount a proper campaign on the environment in Harar centred around the limited tree planting effort.
Harar is a World Heritage Site. Unesco pressure has halted probably inopportune condominium erection between the last propagates of Mt Hakim and Jegol, the fortified city. Planting three dozens of eucalyptuses in the right places would very cost effectively reduce their visual impact to near zero and better life conditions of residents. We will do it.
Scope and costing
We plan to plant around 30 Ha in the Kundudo area and 10 on Mt. Hakim, plus around sixty eucalyptuses to hide new condominiums striking the eye on Jegol views from the west.
An hectare can be planted with 300 original trees at a cost, including inspections and watering for two years, of around 40 birr each, thanks to local participation. This is 12.000 birr or 500 euros, ca. 700 USD. The whole planting would imply 480.000 birr, 24.000 euros, 30.000 USD, but economies of scale may mean lesser costs.
Fencing and warden costs, partly to be produced by the communities implied, will be as follows:
3km. of fencing, done simply but effectively wit barbed wire and local eucalyptus wood, birr 40,000.
Five wardens in the Kundudo, one on Mt. Hakim, birr 1,800 monthly, 21,600 yearly, we engage them for a two year period for a total 43,200 birr cost.
Two three day courses, one in Harar, one in Gursum, total cost 10,000 birr each, 20.000 in all.
TOTAL PROJECT PROSPECTED COSTS, BIRR 583,200.
Podocarpus falcata, Zigba, in nursery
Loose planting is cost effective and nature friendly: a great part of regeneration is left to time, and the simple fact that locals want a forest, are nurturing it, are no longer uprooting whatever has leafs.
Courses will be given to administrative personnel in Harar, and in Gursum also with service personnel from Ejersa Goro, covering the East Slopes and Adem Goba proposed areas in the satellite view above.
Planting will only ensue serious training, thus any minimal seed money recovered by the association will kick start action, provided association members have lobbied the local Gov’t in advance, obtaining their extended support.
This is no NGO out-driven proposal. It will stem from local will, a round table resolution taken from stakeholders around, or it will simply not happen.
Marco, Addis, 26 September 2012, Demera.
The big ten are the rare grand fine mammals one can look for along the Extended East Route.
They are endemic or near endemic, one can only find them in Ethiopia or on a limited area. Most of them are endangered.
These rarities are not in a classic Tanzania or Kenya park, one has to go and find them off the beaten trail!
They are totally majestic, and deserve all the world's attention.
Grevy's Zebra, or Imperial Zebra. Endangered, around 2000 left, only 120 in Ethiopia
Babile Elephants, we love them! Only about 500 left, once believed to be a subspecies
The Black Lion, or Abyssinian Lion. A genetically distinct population. The Mountain Nyala, impressive antelope, only found in Ethiopia along the EER, 2500 left!
The Kundudo Feral horse, one of only two feral groups in Africa. Now sadly all in captivity. The Somali Wild Ass Impressive Gelada Baboons, endemic to Ethiopia, are in reality grass grazers! Colobus Monkey, the southern type, found on the EER, is most likely an eco adaptation or a subspecies The Beisa Orix, 730 in the AWASH PARK The Semien Wolf, endemic rodent predator, is found on the Ankober variant, in the Guassa plateau. Only 300-400 left after a rabies epidemic in 1990.
The main areas of naturalistic interest along the new touristic route are here:
THE BIG TEN IN A VIEW:
Action Research to save some endangered pearls of Eastern Ethiopia offering
a developed and complete tourism route as an economic alternative to their
rapid and irreversible destruction. Reports from two missions in early 2008.
Dedicated to the Presidents of the Regional States of Oromia and Harari.
Abstract: a two part paper conceived as a personal contribution to the Environment Protection
Authority and to the Ministry of Tourism in Ethiopia. The first part overviews a few threats to
environment as a knowledgeable passer by would notice, and proposes some advice.
The second presents the findings of two missions to the Kundudo, the home of feral horses, and
elaborates on how this rediscovered wealth could be an attraction on a defined east tour route.
1-Research setting and justification
I have started to get engaged directly in environment and development related issues in Ethiopia
since my first seven year contract as a rural development teacher at the Italian state run senior
secondary school in Addis Ababa, in 1995. I initiated a local NGDO, the Triticale Consultative
Group to diffuse a cultivation with considerable ecological and food potential. I enter in continuous
contact with various fields as administrator of Ethiopia’s milk producers and processors association,
EMPA, I co-founded. As a milk sector investor I regularly interact with people and administration.
As an Italian teacher of development and ecology with a long experience in teaching and field action
research, I attempted recently the promotion of some of Ethiopia’s absolute environmental pearls to
countries that do not simply know them yet.
My first such engagement was directing a multinational team that promoted the Semien Mountains
through the first precise measurement of Ras Dashen, through modern technologies1.
The measurement, 4549 m ±2, is official in the Country and recognized by most major
topographic and mountaineering circles worldwide. The roof of Ethiopia was officially the most misquoted peak on the net, and de facto the worst measured significant mountain in the world.
Trekking Italia, a major Italian mountaineers association, with more than 20,000 members, initiated a regular yearly tourism program in the Semiens as a direct consequence of this activity. Mountaineers
groups in Spain have done the same thing.
A DGPS on one of the peaks. Five were employed
In a visit to Harar, during preparations of the Ras Dejen measurement and promotion feat, I heard of
the probable existence of a pack of feral horses, next to extinction, on overlooking Mount Kundudo.
¹ Wikipedia entries “Ras Dashen” in Italian and English.
I immediately started to investigate the claim through informants from the region, as nothing could
be traced in existing literature, apart from a biography of his Majesty Haile Selassie.
I subsequently personally lead two Italian Missions to the Kundudo.
This has brought me to tie strong personal and conservation work contacts with local authorities,
possibly gain their respect, certainly some confidence and obtain from His Excellency Murad
Abdulhadi and through him from His Excellency Abbadulla Gemmechu, Presidents respectively of
the Regional Federal States of Harari and Oromia, a mandate to work on a more vast action research
This is the object of this paper.
It consists of direct research conduced with the region’s peoples in specific areas to preserve places
of astounding naturalistic value, under severe threat, to create economic alternatives to their
Tourism, and in this particular case studying how to develop a route in the Country’s East appears
the key alternative. Extending it to Rift Valley localities and possibly to Somaliland could prove the
creation of a tourist path of great economic value.
2-Environmental Degradation, as seen touring around
A brief analysis of disturbing signs of severe degradation. Some ways out.
Whilst Ethiopia is unfortunately the single African Country with the worst ecosystems
degradation (UNEP Global Environment Outlook Geo4 report, 2006)¹, this is particularly true of
some areas, whilst others show a steady or sometimes even bettering situation.
Throughout areas like Sidamo and parts of Gurage, for example, stands a long tradition of
agriculture that depends on trees and shrubs like Coffee and Musa ensete (the Abyssinian starch
banana, grown for its floury stem parts and not for the fruit). This appears to have fostered a culture
of respect for tree-shaded spots and bear a diffused use of original alternatives to plastic bags in
the form of straws and in particular banana leaves as packaging material.
Population pressure, a misunderstanding of the concept of personal freedom in an ambient where
environmental education and a culture of recycling and reuse is virtually unheard of has had rapid
¹Ethiopia is all vulnerable or critical, southern Europe fares worse. No excuse to destroy our land.
Europe has increasing forest areas, destruction was mostly done centuries ago, it is not ongoing now.
degradation consequences. Hundreds of thousands have taken freedom after the Communist regime
as the right to destroy what was felt as guarded state property, as the State now would let you do it.
A global analysis of the situation has not been attempted to the best of our knowledge, and is
well beyond the scope of this brief paper.
I would like to point out a few elements that will both serve as general indicators of the situation and
be possible target of other, further studies. This is by no means a full account of environment
degradation; take it as a voyager’s note on it, as seen during the Kundudo conservation attempt.
1- Growingly, plastic bags became of generalized use,
over the past three to four years in particular.
Two considerable size factories started productions in
Debre Zeyt alone in the last four years, both employing in
excess of 400 workers each. Their revenue tops easily 20
million birr yearly, production is almost exclusively low
density polyethylene bags, ten of tons, dozens of millions
bags per month.
Most of them, including tons still imported -by containers a The plastic bag tree, a common Ethipia sight nowadays... week- are extremely poor quality, very thin and not
reusable. There is no concept of their proper disposal, they
are invariably gathered by private rubbish collectors or the public sector and make good show of
themselves dumped in the immediate outskirts of both small and big cities, usually near a main road:
a modern welcome sign for passers by. After a few days winds participate in the spreading of the
bags over vast areas, creating permanent Christmas trees of dubious taste to say the least.
A good example of this was found by the second Italian mission to the Kundudo just under Stinico,
fortunately over a small area the rocks, trees and ground were covered by them, blue, white and
yellowish in colour, on the way up to the amazing rock paintings we are to discuss further.
Firstly, the spread of thicker reusable bags would solve the problem where natural container bags
are hard to propose, secondly, amassing them better in more suitable places and burning them
rapidly far from houses would be a good temporary solution.
As avoiding their use altogether has proven difficult everywhere, a ban on the import and
production of the very thin non reusable type and incentives to reutilize and recycle thick ones
would be a good step to take.
2- Water contamination in areas near towns, both big and small.
I have many times witnessed the fantastic colouring assumed by the small permanent river that
flows under the industrial area after Akaki, next to the last
road climb before approaching Dukem. Strong and changing
shades of violet, blue, red, yellow, sometimes green. A pity
these highly contaminated waters that indicate heavy metals
and potent solvents (no dye factory in the area) flow to the
Akaki marshes (Abba Samuel Hayk), Addis Ababa’s main
fresh water supply.
Already during the first year of my stay a big healthy dog Red river, China. Rarer there now common around Addis! owned by and Italian friend drank water from the creek under
the Bihere Tsige park along the Debre Zeyt Road in town. She died in awful pain the day after.
3- Heavy air. No research has been conducted to the best of my knowledge on the effects of air
pollution in Addis. Tourists are in some cases presented thin traditional scarves by clever tour
operators on their arrival. Invariably they use them on the first day in Addis on their faces, to try and
ward off the particulate, the powders, the gases and the odours of downtown Addis.
A simple test would be measuring the first rains’ pH, further analyzing their NOx and sulphur
contents, possibly, thin solids (PM10). In a near future, a couple of automatic air pollution
monitoring stations should be deployed in central Addis, to
know the situation by the day and suggest avoiding the center
to young, old and lung sufferers during the worst days. A
serious preventative measure would consist in equipping major
motoring test centers with exhaust gas measuring equipment,
and denying annual visit to old, heavy polluters. VAT has been
Heavy import taxes that encourage all to use fascist era
museum pieces or nearly as old cars should be scrapped, with Addis when air was still bearable, it is now one of the worst in the world evident economic and health advantages.
A couple of roundabouts on the ring road alone (Gerji and Abo) create each an average 20 min.
wait at rush hours. Just because the centre green is too big and clearly restricts the carriageway. A
quick calculation: somewhere in the order of 50,000 birr petrol burnt uselessly per day, without
counting car wear, pollution effects, time lost. A slight redesign would solve the problem.
No one has an estimate of life years lost in Addis by all of us, due to lung and circulation illnesses.
The lungs of a long time resident, particularly in some areas of downtown Addis are as black as
those of a life long smoker’s. This is an area where some directed research would yield interesting,
drastic results rapidly, and may produce some air pollution control elicited by the fortunates of
Addis, who sure do not want to die young.
4- Generalized forest felling occurred during the last phase of the ousting of the Derg and
particularly after that. Far too much to give our kids a future in a Country that resembles the green
one we knew, just in 1991.
Almost every peasant took “freedom” as a right to destroy all trees everywhere, a resource felt to
invariably by everyone all over Ethiopia be the government’s, not the community’s. Still, a number of
primary forests subsist. Sometimes in small patches.
Extended forests are found towards Sudan, in the Beni Shangul area for example.
The 8,545 Ha of the Menderro State forest under the Kundudo, declared in 1986, were practically completely
destroyed in 1994.
Many town dwellers still buy coal on the Langano shores
or the former Rift valley park area. Fifty birr per long bag, filled with quality coal on top and
WhIrlwinds now raises more and more topsoil, another side of climate change
poor under, against eighty in Addis. The boy stops you on the road.
The bags are hidden in the bush.
At the fall of the Derg, coal was around 12-15 birr per bag or even less, in Addis Ababa.
All our forests were disappearing by the day.
It is never too late, we need to replant seriously: original trees, in a natural pattern.
One island alone of the 37 of lake Tana holds some near pristine forest, in the Gorgora/Mendaba
small archipelago to the north of the majestic lake. It should be saved.
4- Wild animals parks’ degradation.
The Awash park is an absolute attraction on the Eastern Route. Still the world’s most dense
reserve of Orix, the planets’
antelope most endowed with
horns, a particularly graceful
wild beast, the root of the
The Rift Valley Park, de facto
suppressed during the last three
years, would have been the main
attraction of an Extended East
Route to include south up to the
the green and well preserved Awash park falls. ©Boazimages, from www.flickr.com
Sidamo region. Little can now be done to reverse a meaningless, awful mistake. As an example, I
cite the Shala disaster. An amazing lake with very salty deep blue waters had a few
thousand hectares of dense acacia thicket around. In the last three years warden’s salaries were
stopped, two mules every minute would take away a fallen tree, a 40 ton lorry filled to the brink –
one every twenty minutes- would loot illegally the magic white perfect quartzite Awash park, photo Paola Borghi
sand near breathtaking boiling hot spas that certainly deserve better attention. A multi storey lodge’s unfinished frame stands above what is left of the forest, last crime to perfect a near total destruction.
Abiyata orAbijata lake near by has lost most of its Flamingo population due to water decrease spurned off by different uses of the Bulbulla river, its only affluent.
The distant Necc Sar and Mago reserves have been abandoned by the family of that clever friend of Nelson Mandela’s, the one Madiba himself convinced to help save Ethiopian
wildlife. Because it is one of the best in Africa, and simply the most endangered on the continent. Reasons given for this serious drawback were the incapacity of the local administration to stop cattle from
roaming around. It could well also be poor tourism revenue for the South African family. And an authoritatibve approach by the Dutch South African. Awash Girl
If the tourists do not come, an administration should not destroy its pearls, rather, promote them
more intelligently, constantly, cleverly, with a resilience and cultural pride that has always been and
should be Ethiopia’s own mark.
Afar, one of the Awash Park peoples, here and preceding page © authors, pics on www.flickr.com
5- Minor, but increasing tourism pressure results in paradoxical situations, like the one of the Erta
Ale crater. The world’s most astounding active fluid lava volcano, easily spotted from satellite
photos and sat image viewing programs of all sorts, just one of three in the world where inner earth
glowing is seen permanently, the oldest of the three, has become the target of disturbing littering.
Just a decade ago, it was only the sought, distant objective of volcanologists’ expeditions. The likes
of Aarun Tazieff considered it the world’s volcano marvel. So do now hundreds of uneducated
tourists who have littered most sides with hundreds, if not thousands of plastic water bottles too far
from the lava to be molten or burnt. A sign on the spot and a warning by EPA to tourist operators,
not more than ten, in the Erta Ale business should solve the issue, followed with a decent fine if tour
agents are not complying. The same should rapidly perform a clean up of their misdeeds, paying
locals. I annex here a sign which could be posted by the crater.
3-The Tourism Alternative. Or how a few real rare environment pearls we
should save for ourselves will produce great economic development.
The table shows, from WTO data, the considerable
growth in Ethiopia of the world fastest growing
industry, Tourism. We could fare better, compared to
other main East Africa Destination. Yet tourism is
already, definitely, the Country’s single biggest
industry sector, with around 6% of GDP created
where industry is totally worth around a third of the
national GDP (‘Euromonitor Intl.’ in a private market
research report on tourism in Ethiopia). The same
report states: “The government is proving its
commitment and willingness to develop tourism through a number of initiatives. Tourism is a
featured component of Ethiopia's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) that aims to combat
poverty and encourage development in the country. However, tourism is only briefly mentioned in
the paper and it fails to delineate a strategic vision for its further development. Another more
relevant initiative is the creation of the Ethiopian Tourism Paradigm (ETP), which acts as a ministry
of tourism to promote its further development. Despite these efforts, Ethiopia has several challenges
to overcome in expanding travel and tourism, the most important of which is the country's negative
public image and international perception. As such, the prospects for growth in travel and tourism
remain very limited, as suggested by the barely 2% increase in tourist arrivals in 2006”¹.
A thoroughly vital sector deserving a lot of attention. I believe personally and strongly we have to
move immediately along new pathways too few, if any, have tried:
1- Participatory Conservation, saving our pearls with the people living in and around them.
2- Action research to promote and save fantastic environments that are depleted by the day.
3- Offer Tourism as the real economic alternative to forest felling, environment destruction.
4- Open new tourist routes to explore and put to value our natural riches and know our
peoples in their authentic environment.
A three-four storey countryside tourist lodge, unfinished at costs above most investors’ budget in
Ethiopia makes no sense. Placed on the shores of Lake Shala, where all vegetation has been lost just
as the lodge was being designed and even the white sands -an engineer once told me so pure it is
good for airplane glass- at the amazing hot springs nearby leave place for huge excavation holes, it is
the epitome, the best idea one can get of wrong use of natural resource, the one I dubbed the Shala
Disaster. To the defense of the owners, the shrub around it is the only one not cut. Proof little
attention is enough to avoid further destruction. A strong will can even reverse many situations.
Ecolodges, environment friendly constructions, are much cheaper to make, offer better opportunities
for locals’ revenue, can be realized rapidly in most cases. They offer an aura of adventure which is to
me the real frontier of Tourism in the Country, what we should be able to sell.
Ethiopia was the country of myth and religion, the distant land of awe, of creation.
Rasselas and Prester Jean the giant figures of an Ethiopia not true to life, but fantastic, attractive.
At the onset of the second Italo Abyssinan war in 1935 flocks of journalists came to Addis in two
opposite outfits, some dressed in Sahara hats, others heavily equipped, ready to climb Ras Dashen.
The director of the Times of London was to enroll ancient Greek interpreters, as he thought it was
the language of the Country of mystery his reporters were to embark to².
Since, dismally, our land has a name for Turmoil, Famine and War.
Image is the real hey factor to seeing tourism change millions’ lives. Restoring an Image we had in a
rather near past, before years of Communism contributed to sweep it away.
¹ Euromonitor International, marketers,
² Arrigo Petacco, Faccetta Nera, Storia della conquista dell’Impero, 2003, Mondadori, pp.191
4-Kundudo Action Research
A first mission essentially constituted of Horse experts and veterinarians was conduced from Dec.
28th to Jan 10th 2008.
One remnant feral horse was found, action research started with a few local participants, the greatly
endangered situation was recorded, the animal’s DNA collected from mane hair follicles.
Some reconstruction of the pack’s story facing growing population and grazing pressure led to a first
assessment of possible future action, as per here attached report:
4.1 Kondudo Feral Horses, essentials. First Italian Mission Report
Abstract: a team of six horse experts, veterinarians and conservation ecologists from Italy finds a
last remnant of a rare pack of feral horses. A first environmental and historic analysis attempted
through visits and interviews. Ideas to set up a rapid intervention to save the pack shared,
planning of a further mission to include locals, sociologists, experts of action research in the field
of conservation of endangered animal species or other strands. Necessity of a comprehensive
analysis. Tourism proposed as an economic alternative to the rapid ecosystem destruction.
The Kondudo is an amba, flat-top Mountain, 26 kms from Harar on a direct line, 70 on the road.
It is seen at a distance above the roofs of the thousand years old Jogol, an UNESCO World heritage
site, the only walled city south of the Sahara.
Kundudo on Harar jugol roofs. Digitally enlarged, original AP photo, © reserved.
The Kondudo top, a wetter grassland than any around, holds a pack of wild horses, the last in the
whole of East Africa.
They are known to locals in the area since at least 200 years. Tafari Mekonnen, future Emperor
Haile Selassie helped by an uncle tamed his first own beloved mount from that pack when a young
boy, age about 10, 107 years ago.*
He was born under the Kondudo, in Ejersa Goro.
We heard a claim there were other wild horses on Gara Muleta also near Harar but the claim appears
to be wrong, and possibly in the Din Din forest area, we may soon verify this, but it seems unlikely.
After measuring Ras Dejen or Dashen to the metre at 4550m, Ethiopia’s highest peak and the
mountain whose height is still most misquoted on the net, I set up a team of six young Italian
veterinarians, naturalists and a photographer to study the pack. I had heard about them during
preparations to that mission.
Only one animal was found on Jan 3rd 2008, a 10-12 year mare. We slightly doped her and collected
hair follicles from her mane, to obtain the DNA. We collected other similar samples from horses in
two areas of Ethiopia to act as a blank.
She is healthy and shows evident signs proving she has not been tamed: untouched hoofs, weak
muscular structure and belly form showing she is a grazer, not used to work and essentially confined
to the flat top of the amba, as the rest of the pack was. We could not find the other seven to ten
members of the population.
Trying doping with a crossbow
Investigation led us to discover that a man, in the name of Mohammed Yasin has been trying to tame
the rest of the pack since the last twelve years and considers them as his property, though the taming
has so far proven not totally successful. He releases the horses after every harvest seasons. Once
released they rush immediately to their environment and live as their ancestors have, using for water
the flat mountain top’s small round pond, which had not dried at the top of the dry season this
January, and the 13 hectares flat top grassland for feed.
It is also reported the abducted horses prove poor at carrying wheat about, jumping and tossing it
about regularly, with some fellow peasants mocking the guy for his horses, others jealous of his
skill. Mohammed has presumably sold or tamed the fowls.
Cows and a couple of asses were on the top.
A close friend of mine had seen them 17 years ago, there were ten of them, with a young calf in
difficulty, fallen off the cliff, he could not save him. By then cows were already around. Recently a
family has encroached just under the top, on a small amba side. Another acquaintance, born nearby,
saw them in 1952, again about ten, white and beautiful.
We deduce two things:
- The amba top has probably sustained, since known to man and for at least 200 years a pack,
no more than a 10-15 strong, in line with the water and fodder availability and the recalled
presence of cheetahs and lions in the past. Weaker or “excess” horses would be predated.
- The pristine situation can be reinstalled, but only through a very prompt action, as the likes of
Ato Mohammed** will soon succeed in taming and ruining the pack, whilst the cows
encroaching in spite of the difficult accessibility, coupled with the general increase in
population pressure will complete the annihilation of a very special site indeed.
The available DNA samples will allow us at least to detect any eventual blood mixing caused by ato
Mohammed, most probably a better classification of the whole pack.
The Government has marked a red point on the tracks up, saying no one should encroach above,
presumably even not trespass the point, but no one has ever enforced it.
In the area the “Stinico” mountain, practically the southern end of the Kondudo small range -named
after an Italian official stranded there during the Fascist invasion and there overpowered- apparently
holds cave engravings of date yet to be established, and Goba tarara near by to the north east bears
visible huge caves filled with chiropters (bats) of different species.
The expedition members noticed how in the area no Coca Cola is found for miles around, whilst
even the remote Semiens have their soft drinks selling points. Roads are unkempt, the school at Yaya
Guda, our starting point, deprived of everything, no pipes around though the mountain has many
natural sources of fresh clear water.
The mission, during the twelve days tour, verified a total disinterest to what is natural or of
naturalistic attraction: on the road to Harar the Awash Park is ridden with cows and pastoralists and
no one seems to care. A question on this to the impending strong man of Oromia has led to a very
stupid answer indeed, local scouts report.
The Rift Valley Park has been de facto suppressed, wardens receive no pay, a tree every minute
leaves the banks of Lake Shala on mule back and a 40 ton lorry comes to take away its peculiar
sands every half an hour. Thousands of hectares have been destroyed. This has occurred or
accelerated badly just in the last three years.
We urge the following path to the restoration and promotion of the Kondudo area, with the objective
of bettering the whole Nation’s image and the lot of the local, forsaken peoples.
The only way forward is offering them alternatives to the destruction the horse pack and the amba
Private and International intervention objectives
1. Complete the wild horse research with the participation of as many interested bodies as
feasible, some first DNA results expected within 40 days.
2. Offer Mohammed Yasin a paid warden job after he has released the horses permanently
3. Enforce the no encroachment, no livestock policy around the amba’s top: easily enough, put
a manned cow gate on the narrow, single existing access to the top.
4. Check on the horses, the amba’s top and the pond’s ecological balance
5. Build a simple but attractive tourist lodge above Yaya Guda
6. Use the occasion of the construction to give water to Yaya Guda and its school
7. Form local tourist guides and hotel staff
8. Build through publicity an image for the locality: Kondudo, wild horses, rock engravings,
trekking opportunities and bat caves.
9. Promote other income generating activities in the area, both related and unrelated to tourism.
Govt. policy objectives
1. Electing the Kondudo to an animal Sanctuary
2. Bettering the access roads conditions
3. Putting a Police post on the way between Gursum and Bombas, to avoid possible bandits’
attack, a thing sometimes occurred in the past.
4. Participate through the ETTC in the promotion of the locality as a complement to Harar
I have discussed the matter with the Minister of Tourism, the local Environment Protection Agency
and the Africa office of the UNEP, based in Addis. I am building up contacts and my friends in Italy
and Spain are in the early stages of planning a fund for the Lodge.
Contacts have been held during the mission with local guides, local officials in Yaya Guda and
Gursum, with the General Manager of the biggest factory in the area, Harar Beer, and other local
foreseeable investors and interested individuals.
I am totally convinced the pack and the grassland-wet area will prove not only a singular asset
environmentally, but a serious source of income.
The famous Namib desert horse pack, escaped from German occupants ca. 1915 and thus much
more recent, less fascinating in their natural history and deprived of the aura of myth, mystery,
“distant and awesome” the Kondudo pack bears, attract well over 10,000 tourists a year.
The Kondudo offers ever bettering views as you climb over a distant area and a breathtaking top
panorama from Harar to the distant Somaliland borders eastwards, as well as two differentiated
difficulty climbs and spots of nearly untouched vegetation.
You climb a three thousand metres mountain, here alone in the whole planet, for the bonus of
finding and enjoying the presence of a very special and indeed rare horse breed.
An unexpected novelty Ethiopia will have to offer. The Habesha since early medieval times set their
heirs to the throne on at least three historically known ambas, Debre Damo, Ghishen, Weyni. Those
were the prisons that inspired the famous Dr. Johnson’s “Rasselas”.
I realize now this most amazing pack had elected as their golden “prison” an amba of such beauty,
themselves, before man did, at Kondudo, some day lost in the aura of time. There they will be, not in
a single man’s captivity. This is our first task: free the wild beauty, the magic horses of Ethiopia.
*Leonard Moseley: “A Biography of Ras Tafari Mekonnen”
**The second mission was later to reveal the main horse looter’s name to Jundi Ahmed
Marco, Addis and Varese, 23-29 Jan. 2008
4.2 The path to the Second Mission
I had the chance to contact the resident BBC journalist through my friend Dr. Richard Pankhurst.
A World Service piece was broadcast on Jan 11th.
ETV extensively publicized our first mission in bulletins in six languages, both radio and tv, as they
had done for the Ras Dejen feat, thanks to my contacts Masresha, and Haile at the national news
A regional paper did the same in Italy, while googling Kondudo (Kundudo is the right
transliteration, but it was on the net as Kondudo alone) before January 2008 gave three entries on an
endemic shrub, Pyttosporum abyssinicum. It now, before any publication from the second mission,
gives a staggering 230 entries, as news was taken up by many sites all over Africa at first, then
Basra’s DNA is safely preserved in Rome, but the tests cost and the lack of DNA from other animals
in the pack convinced me to postpone analysis.
I soon managed to contact Meftuh Shash of the site www.gursum.com, the most active member of
the Gursum community in the diaspora, vice head of the FBCGA, Fugnan Bira Communituy Group
Association. He helped me contact Sahaldin Khairo and the similar HIAGI association of Harar
emigrants. Their help was instrumental in the organization of the second mission, and I rapidly
realized the whole conservation effort could be devised as an HIAGI/FBCA project.
With some friends in Italy we had previously taken some steps to found an NGO, collected resumes
of interested individuals. Alessandro Minuti in Varese in Northen Italy and Giorgio Bulgarelli in
Rome being the most active. We rapidly decided for an Easter visit, with Alessandro Minuti and
Jonathan Pinna, one of my most dedicated ecology student, as Italian members.
It was already clear by then FBCGA and HIAGI would find other expedition members locally.
As Meftuh indicated, we got ready to visit the Stinico caves as well.
4.3 The second Italian Mission to the Kundudo, preliminary report
Italian Mission finds the last feral horses of Africa outside the Namib desert,
the most endangered on the planet. Report of the second mission to save
them. A theory on their origin, prehistoric rock engravings found on the same
Abstract: a second action research mission to the Kundudo in Ethiopia finds what is left of the
Kundudo Feral horse pack in a state of semicaptivity.
Ecological situation of the Menderro
state forest rapidly evaluated. A local NGO set
up to protect the area, with base in Addis Ababa
and members in different countries. Prehistoric
rock paintings revealed, a tentative theory
developed on the origin of the pack. Guidelines
and a plan for immediate action drawn.
Kundudo, an Amba cut flat above the skies of
Harar, is made up mainly of limestone , contrary
to most similar Ethiopian mountains. Over the
basalt that covers it like an icing, dozens of metres
thick, having climbed aside a fall, over a last
great cave out of which springs a torrent, passing through a narrow pass through heavy molten lava
fronts, we climb on a flat pastureland where our feet rest on a thick, ceding dry grass cover. An
humid area where rains have failed for now over seven months. The feral horses are not there any
Of the last, Basra, we found in January, only DNA from hair follicles is left.
We hear she has been taken down, and died of starvation. Someone perhaps does not want the last
feral horses to be saved? They are so ancient, contrary to those in the Namib, no one can recall when
in History they got free, always been up the Kundudo, as a coherent part of it, since an era confused
in the aura of times. For sure Ras Tafari Makonnen, Haile Selassie, The Lion of Judah, The king of
Kings, a minute man of great political weight -a mythical figure and god to many “Rasta”, as Jah-
Kundudo North access, above the Immis cave, left in the shade the passage, not practicable to cattle or horse.
got his first mount up there, ca. 1900.
We found, just under on the North face, on March 21th, four other members of the pack, initially and
since sightings of up to 55 years ago around ten strong. We can
say we found what is left of the pack, as the Ethiopian
members of the team continue to search around and have the
name and the directions to find a man who has another horse,
Seifi Abrahim, with two others apparently sold. Basra’s fate is
still under investigation.
What is left to rebuild the small initial population is a Stallion,
5-7 years old, very difficult, almost impossible to control yet in
the hands of Jundi Ahmed Oumer, the guy who also possesses
the two 8-10 and10-12 years old mares respectively and a very
young, three months old fowl as in these pictures. The pond, March 22nd 2008
Interviews offer another simple and tragic explanation for the demise of Basra, probably the
matriarch of the pack. “Those horses you cannot easily sell, nearly impossible to domesticate
compete with our cows up there. We take them away from the pond, they forcibly come back…”
The pond was still deep enough (a metre at the centre, 60 cm at the side, 1,5 m wide) to maintain ten
horses in March, after the worst drought in over a decade, but not enough for the staggering figure of
fifty two cows, up from the eight of January. We classified them as property of the ten families that
live higher on the mountain. The pond too had been somewhat dug and its sides remould from
January, to retain more water in a smaller surface area and avoid drying out, apparently.
Basra was killed by stupidity. The same gross ignorance epidemic, both preventable and curable,
that will have destroyed a pristine mountain paradise before two rains, within two years.
The pasture land is being destroyed by the day up there, like the 8445 hectares of forest underneath
have been all but finished in six years. The once dense tree area below is still classified as Menderro
State Forest, but is is gone, mainly in thousands of fertilizer bags to far Addis Ababa, as coal.
Easy to say: 12,8 hectares at 3,000m will only provide a sustainable living to three of your ten
families. Is it not better to live all, with many others if tourism revenue? Would
they understand it?
The simple and clear cut answer is YES, if we manage to promote this heaven, if they
will see tourists coming, revenue and, firstly, manage to save what is left of it.
But as a serpent does not roll after biting ts own tail, it is a bit complicated, and
requires a lot of attention, staggering masses of public relations and lobbying
work at all levels. Tourism requires a pristine environment, and at the same time
appears a requirement to convince locals to comply with ecologically sound rules.
Part of the pack on the North slope Prof. Viganó, teacher of ecology and
rural development in Italy, twenty years’ experience on the field in Africa had at
first a UNEP mandate to solve the issue, together with the local Environmental
Protection Agency. He now has a charge
directly from the State Presidencies of Oromia and Harari, the two Federal Regional States implied.
He tackled the task turning his till here personally sustained efforts to a project of a local NGO with roots outside
Ethiopia, FBCGA, the body of Gursumese all over the world. They started in 2005 study and conservation
projects, still at the initial stage, on the same area.
A mare had a three months old colt, hope of the pack
More important, FBCGA has the local knowledge and, as it was to be rapidly proven, can
move people, open doors.
The choice of a more academic, foreign pushed action research would have easily been proven
belated, costly and worthless, given the delicate implications on the field, and the bare fact Prof.
Viganó’s two teams got there late.
Meftuh Shash Abubakar, the most active of the Gursumese in the Diaspora, as they often call
themselves, provided the second team with material and personal help.
At our arrival in Harar we were welcomed by the State President and his adjoint, a known member
of parliament. Before we got to Gursum, administrative capital of the area and point of departure for
the climb, the whole cabinet was ready, and made a special meeting the late night on the Mewlid
feast day, to make sure all necessary resource persons and material will be with us the following
dawn. A key figure, Cheick Abdulnasir Adem had been convinced to lend a hand and a mission by
Kasitti, the man from Gursum who had taken up the only nine foreigners to visit the Amba in the last
years had already identified the whereabouts of the horses.
We visited the stallion, indicated him as Harla on the specimens (name suggestion by Meftuh) the
white mare, (named Basra through resemblance to the one lost) the red one and the fowl.
All were healthy, though not well nourished. The fowl is a male evaluated at three months of age as
immediately confirmed by Jundi Ahmed, the horse temporary holder.
We collected a bunch of hair follicles from each to extract the DNA except the fowl, obviously with
the mother and thinly maned anyhow, and Aberra Mekuria, head of natural Resources Management
in the area and dean of the mission
conducted this interview in Oromiffa
(local language), with Jundi Ahmed:
Why did you take the horses down?
They were in danger because of Cheetahs.
Cheetahs would kill them and suspend
them from trees to consume them slowly.
There is no water up there, little grass.
Are still there Cheetahs around?
On the other side, in the forest, do not
know how many.
Where do you keep them?
Near our houses.
Can you sell them?
Not well, but it is possible. Two mares and the colt, the stallion was always on a leash
They are hard to handle. Do you take them up the Kundudo again? The stallion we cannot free, or
he will disappear, the others we handle, so we could take them up. How long would that take? Two
hours or more walk. Do they have names? None of them.
Aberra in the debrief the day after would comment: Leopards, rather, are known to kill animals
exactly that way, yet we know the horse have been there since a long time, with their number not
diminishing particularly fast due to this cause. There are just two or three cheetahs left on the
Mendero mountain itself (second peak on the chain, the first being the Stinico, Kundudo follows).
Mendero has been partly reforested, partly holds its original tree cover. Cheetahs killed 33 lambs in
an incident five years ago in the near area named Harash. Other wildlife include monkeys.
He noted Jundi feels the horses are his property. He has presumably being tampering with them
for a few years now. I deduce he is the Mohamed Yasin our Kasitti, otherwise a usually exact
informant had mentioned as the main horse looter, during the first Italian mission.
The claim there is another horse from the pack in a certain Seifi’s hands must be verified rapidly, as
the whereabouts of recently sold other members, possibly including fowls, obviously easily
Those found look desperately underfed. Rapid action is needed lest they will suffer’s Basra’s
I compiled a list of cattle owners, later confirmed by Aberra, whilst interviews with them were held
by me and different local members of the group.
One Abdurahman Mahmud owns alone the exact fourth of the cows, thirteen.
During a survey of the flat top we noted a structure I had seen just from a distance and not visited
during the first mission. It proved to be an ancient mosque. The white stone walls, looking possibly
rearranged, point clearly to Mecca, while excavation on the south west side, opposite the part
pointing towards Arabia indicate 80cm or slightly deeper foundations of white limestone.
A tomb was found on the surface, also opened and tampered with. We recuperated some human
bones and clay fragments from it, in view of a possible carbon 14 aging, whilst the news we later
heard push me to request the help of archaeologists.
Local historic knowledge dates the mosque possibly at the end of the long Harla period (cave
dwellers), just before Harar took the lead as the main Gey, or city around. This is the period when
tread and other trades shifted, from the Adulis-Axum route of ancient days -when the ancient,
Christian Empire traded straight with Nanjing in China and all along the Red Sea- to a new route
from the Zeila port to the Ethiopian East, via newly Islamised lands.
Should a proper dating confirm local knowledge, it would reveal up there, in the magic setting
chosen by old monasteries all over the world, one of the oldest Muslim Shrines in the continent.
The oldest for sure at 3000 metres, near the sky.
Reasoning on the scene a couple of nights later an idea occurred to me: not even the most resilient of
peoples would take thousands of well cut stones up there on their backs. Lime quarries are far under.
Horses or mules must have been used.
When I first posted on specific sites the finding a first easily dismissed theory was they had escaped
from fascist hands, as a garrison was annihilated on Mount Stinico in 1935. Prior sightings and
Leonard Moseley’s biography of Haile Selassie cited in the first mission report exclude this.
My idea is that those who first built the mosque, having evidently had horses, let some of them free
just for the beauty of it. Or they had to abandon the area swiftly for some conflict reason.
Similarly in the Namib desert at the onset of WWI the German ambassador was taken a prisoner
while the guest of his British counterpart. The whole German community was offered short notice
and means to rapidly leave, without the animals, in a vessel. They had to let them free.
A direct liaison to the shrine would possibly make the pack one of the oldest in the world.
We collected some samples for C14 dating from a violated shrine on the east side of the mosque.
We visited the cave seen below the top in the first photo of this report and noted an Hystrix
(porcupine) spike. A brief investigation on the spot conduced to the finding of a complex cave, with
at least three ramifications seen from the entry, seven in all we are told. It had been blocked with
cubic metres of stone rubble by the cattle grazers that reached the top.
They felt quite wrongfully the porcupines menaced the cows again, like the horses, so they walled
them in. Rapid destruction of a nice innocuous wild beast and probable cancellation of the cave from
memory. We will attempt to explore it in July.
The Presidents of the two Regional States implied have confided us a vaster project: try and save the
Kundudo promoting it as an arrival point of a tourist route across the Country’s east, globally over
2000 km. A great Savannah park in a critical conservation situation, the Awash, the Harar zone with
around sixty painted caves, a vital secondary reserve of the huge antelope, the Mountain Nyala
(Tragelaphus buxtoni), volcanic crater lakes, rift valley lakes with endemic birds. Enough to interest
the most apathetic. A lot to work on, as the route is mostly unknown to any sort of tourism.
As we were evaluating the natural resources in the area we visited the cave Meftuh had mentioned
from Toronto in his many supportive mails. On March the 22th the three Italians found a painted
grotto not known to the vast catalogue at the disposition of Luca Bachechi of the Italian Institute of
Prehistory and Protohistory, a world authority on the matter. Amongst other an ochre colour cow, a
serpent god and a man riding a feral beast.
The place, Stinico mountain, owes its name to a fascist military officer, who got isolated and killed
there during the otherwise victorious invasion campaign of 1935. A juxtaposition to the fates of
possibly one thousand killed with gas in their refuges in a big cave at Zuria Muhi.
Matteo Dominioni of Turin University still found the other year a number of their bodies. It was
probably one of the worst illegal killings (11/4/1939, war was long over by then) of the past century.
Views beyond any expectation make the Kundudo a worth climb, up to reach a myth, on the top.
Abyssinians of royal descent used to jail their offspring to protect them from enemies and avoid their
participation in palace conjures. Probably more than two centuries ago Horses found this magic
refuge, with permanent water, grass and special medicinal herbs. Forgetful of man graze peacefully
around the pond above the cave-source of the Immis creek, still there in the worst drought in ten
The task of the “Kundudo Action
Group” an NGO created
purposefully in Addis Ababa is
to find the way to take the cows down and the horses back up.
The origin of the feral horse pack is, idea aside, a real mystery.
A third mission from July 9th to
23rd will probably finally see the pack free again. Amongst those getting ready for it Cara Dorothy de Ferranti, a British
conservationist with a small
team. Luca Bachechi has
accepted the task of Senior
Surroundings of the proposed ecolodge
We are looking for photographers, film makers, speleologists, natural scientists, horse lovers.
A fourth mission in December, hopefully will start tourism in the area, and somewhat open the
Extended North Route. A celebration more than a study, it will culminate in an evening concert, by a
prominent violoncellist organized by Bruna Panella, a famed event organizer, up Kundudo top
pastures, near the sky.
Successive phases include setting up an original tree nursery, to start serius replanting of Podocapus
falcatus, Hagenia spp., Juniperus procera, Olea africana.
The assistance to the families that inevitably have to leave the so limited top area, reserved to the
original horses, is a specific project “Agropastoral peoples of the Kuni Muktar and Kundudo,
economic alternatives to ecosystem destruction”, prepared as one of the two key elements of the
project annexed to this action research paper.
The other side of it “The Exteded East Route, Action Research to prepare a sustainable
tourism package through people’s participation”, is introduced after this report.
Our second visit, thanks to the local support, has become a more complex project to comprise not
only the tourism route development attempt and the saving of two highly endangered populations
and ecosystems, in the Kundudo and Kuni Muktar areas, but an integrated conservation approach to
include proposing -and where possible start building up- economic solutions for the local residents.
Marco, Varese, 3-6/4/2008
Photos: courtesy Jonathan Pinna, director’s assistant, second mission; Paola Borghi, Horse special., first mission.
5- The Extended East Route, more and different tourism as a source and
a result of appropriate conservation action research
Action research in conservation is a peculiar activity done with and through the participant
beneficiaries. It requires an good degree of interdisciplinary knowledge, the uttermost dedication,
the sage art of compromise and quite some clever public relation skills.
It is not the sort of classic research project that is born in an academic circle, awaits difficultly and
competitively allotted funds, starts a few months or even years after conception, is the fief of self
esteemed experts, costs a little fortune for appreciated, but mostly just theoretical results.
It is sometimes born of an urge, others of a community idea. It has many times a clever “generator”
figure as a head. Not an hero, a community leader with wide and differentiated knowledge and
The amazing Kundudo research feat, that is effectively leading to the saving and at the same time
promoting in a number of countries of a very special place indeed is not the result of classic
research, not at all.
People’s participation was and is the key to the success. It has been a time consuming effort born
mainly by a few persons. People who took it as a total personal entrusted mission and were able to
elicit participation in a few countries, from different volunteers of European, Ethiopian descent at the
word start, not as a belated and usually disastrous stage of ‘handover to locals’.
Yet all this is fruitless unless it has an economic meaning. Real alternatives are found to the
destruction or it will take place. Whatever the coercion, whatever the will.
The Etna in Italy is Europe’s only fully active volcano -an amazing historic value- was covered in
dense thicket and forests. Italians were not supposed to be poor and backwards, ignorant people, yet
they proved the contrary: its slopes were totally deforested in fairly recent times.
Up until Maletto, an hamlet near the crater rim. Agriculture has taken the land, often a bit like on the
Kundudo, together with construction work too near the top.
A very dangerous spot with heavy volcanic activity. That too was not enough to deter the people.
Only a mixture of learning, and economic yet sustainable growth can save us. All over the world.
Conservation is never, never an easy task. Complex tangled interests can be overcome only proving
to stakeholders that there are objectively better economic choices than cut and encroach.
The economic and general awareness growth fostered by the planet’s fastest growing industry,
tourism can be so powerful it can effectively eradicate poverty in selected areas of countries of the
South for a wide sector of the population.
Italy, a rich country, had a few times more tourists then Egypt, a low income one in the early
seventies. Now it has a lot less.
Egypt has used tourism as the major single contribution to becoming a middle income Nation.
Tourism development is a mixture of infrastructure, creation of a culture of accueuil, safety and
security, smart promotion over and above existing riches of international value.
Ethiopia has also seen a near four fold increase in tourist arrivals, from around 80,000 in 1990 to
nearly 300,000 in 2007, in just eighteen years.
Some of them are just visiting family or use the tourist visa for other personal or business purposes.
Yet a good estimate would say that over 200,000 do the main part of the Northern Route, Bahar Dar,
Lalibela, Gondar and possibly a glimpse of the Semien ranges, often without making it to Axum or
the amazing Gheralta rock hewn churches in Tigray.
Tourists have limited resources and especially, time: they run across the land with amazingly full
time schedules to cover a minimum of ten to a maximum, mostly, of 16 days. So they are pushed to
choose the easy, the known, the organized, what their friends have reported as astounding. A number
of professional operators in the sector, pushed also by heavy taxation, at times make a real rip off
them, asking locally a minimum of 1,000 dollars for trips that cost them less than half all included,
and dismally provide very poor accommodation.
Sidamo coffee, a brand name recently won in court from an USA based
multinational who had... tried to patent it, prepared the original way.
6- Localities to be evaluated in the new Extended East Route:
Debre Zeyt, a number of volcanic lakes, good lakeside accommodation, agro industries, plenty of
bird wildlife. Good food, real fruit yogurt, milk products, relaxing environment.
Lake Bishoftu panoramic view
The Awash Park, discussed above: Savana and river bank
environment of the highest quality.
Needs pushing the Kereyu, Oromo and Afar settlement ten Kms. from the borders. There is no dearth of land, it requires some attention, and skilful enforcement of the no
cow with wild life logic policy.
The pompously named camp “Ras Hotel” would fare better if the old trailers were sold or disposed of and some bungalows built instead. A great attraction would be organizing, at a really minimal initial investment of say 10,000 birr, 650 euros for ten MTB bikes, mountain biking
in the park with an armed escort. Bikers in a Botswana park, well escorted
Orix Group, Orix plain, Awash. 781 counted in Feb 2008
Dik Dik, tiny gazelle, a frequent Awash Park sight
Photoes from www.flick.com © of the authors reserved.
The proposed Extended East Route in its basic development:
Addis-Debre Zeyt-Awash Park-Kuni Muktar-Harar-Koremi-Dakata-Kundudo. Back via
Green option: Jijiga, Hargeisa, Laas Geel rock paintings, Berbera sea shoresDjibouti, back via Dire Dawa. Blue option: via Aliyu Amba (Argobba) and Ankober-Termaber-Debre Sina-Addis. Yellow variant, Gelemso, Bale and back via teh rift valley
Harar, UNESCO World Heritage site, 5,000 visitors a year, to increase rapidly if the Route is set up
and promoted. Employing only original material in restoration work, avoiding new construction
styles within Jogol, the walled citadel and protecting the buffer zone are main present priorities.
Original Harari colours?
Original materials, proper restoration work
Koremi, other Argobba Villages
Arabu Gheba, or, the “Arab got in” (to our land). A depreciative term taken to indicate a dispersed,
discriminated people. Their language is at risk, few still speak it, even the elders speak only a
“broken” Argobba, only occasionally.
These lost, last villages command the awe of the far and distant, in culture and time.
A way out of oblivion, a come back in an Ethiopia that, more maturely than almost any country in the
world, now respects Islam as Christianity without division, without rivalries and contrast, could be offered to the beautiful Koremi village on the way to Babile, Dhakata valley. A lodge, here too, would have to be conceived in a near future.
Alternatively, probably even better, some families could be helped to build an extra house, with
proper sanitation facilities. Koremi will be a stop during horse and trek to the Kundudo Range and
Back to Harar. Other Argobba Villages are found on the way to Ankober, near Aliyu Amba.
Homes and people in Koremi
Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala sanctuary.
It was instituted with help from the Zoological Society of London to
protect rare and endemic Mountain Nyala and remaining highland
forest 18 km west of Asebe Teferi, 180 km from Harar.
According a 2001 WWF paper Mountain Nyala were shot after the fall
of the Derg (1991), forestlands were cleared, no infrastructure existed¹.
The reserve collapsed totally. In fact, a researcher put the extant
Tragelaphus buxtoni population at none in the reserve in 1996.
Yet a count by EWCO (Eth. Wildlife Cons. Org.) in Oct 2001 and Feb
2002 showed respectively 25 and 28, with a confidence the latter
estimate meant they had counted all of them².
The reserve, now less than halved, with an increasing number of trees
felled, is on a range, the Ahmar mounts, of particular naturalistic
value. It hosts also Minilik’s bushback, Lion and other wild animals.
A felled tree, many still up, Kuni
Time and resources are allotted in the annexed Extended East Route Development Action Research to
surveying the sanctuary with local scouts and local
notables to study a way to protect and valorize it
through tourism, much in the way of the Kundudo.
With the major difference that a remnant structure
should be in place, at least formed scouts, and there is
no such thing as a Kundudo Sanctuary, there is one,
neglected as it may be, there.
An NGO from Barcelona, a
town with direct links with
Harar, where Harar itself was
recently awarded the UNESCO
Part of the Amhar chain, courtesy Raimon Mariné world peace prize, Selvans, has
targeted the reserve, and will be implied in the activity. Dr. Raimon Mariné, in
charge, is a close acquaintance of Prof. Marco Viganó, who held a presentation
on the Ras Dejen measurement in Barcelona at a conference Mariné organised
A couple of rare Beasts…
Tragelaphus buxtoni was discovered by science only in 1910. A taxidermist in 1600 left in the world, many
London found it in the prey of a Mr. Ivor Buxton. It has also been named the left of the one without horns?
Queen of Sheba anthelope. It is one of the biggest, with adult males weighing over
the only available measure of 280kgs. A myth in their own, still a much desired trophy for those now
rare Beasts who rather had that astounding beauty as a dead specimen on a wall than free in the wild.
¹ M. J. Jacobs and C. A. Schloeder: Impacts of Conflict on Biodiversity and Protected Areas in
Ethiopia, 2001. WWF paper.
² Argaw K.F., Kebede A., Ereso H.:A a progress report of Mountain Nyala and Menilik’s Bushbuck
in the Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala sanctuary, 2002. Report to the EWCO, Addis Ababa.
Elephants and rock marvels, Dhakata Valley, Babile
On the way to the Kundudo, around thirty km from Harar, along the main road to Jijiga and
Somaliland -being now widened and resurfaced to tarmac- lies the Dhakata Valley.
Peculiar rock formations stand in clear sight, from a distance. Harder rock that withstood erosion of
all sorts, magma blocks and bubbles assorted in undestroyable yet equilibristic arrays.
Nice formations indeed, no Elephant in sight, looked for them a whole day. They used to be seen along the road.
©geodecouverte tour operator
courtesy Alberto Vascon, www.ilcornodafrica.it
I have no real knowledge to discuss the situation of the Babile Elephant Sanctuary. Yet, had I been
in any ways a partner of Flora Eco-power, the firm that took about a third of it, the one near the road
and the accessible part to produce Ricinus communis for biodiesel, I would have steered clear of a
natural reserve. There is no dearth of land, neither less accessible nor less fertile around Oromia.
We need access to the elephants, an endemic subspecies many would say, Loxodonta Africana
abyssinica, to promote this tourist route. Now they are a lot further west in an inaccessible area,.
Another way of reaching them should be found, or, drastically, ask excuses to the investor and
remove his plantation, replant the destroyed 60,000 to 80,000 hectares of tall shrub (in part already
damaged by the people around) at the expenses of those who conceded an animal Sanctuary for
cultivation. I admit they did so under a difficult trade off situation: move people or Elephants.
I have no say, again. I would have moved the cultivation to a remote area.
For a sign of respect to our land, at least take off the eco prefix in the name of your firm!
Further East to Somaliland
The totally novel part, to include around 500 km transborder in Somaliland. Visits to Hargeisa and
Laas Geel, less than eight km away, considered by almost all as the best prehistorically painted cave
on the planet. On, to the Sea, the attraction Ethiopia misses. We will not miss it here. It is sufficient
to the scope to work and share with a friendly neighbouring Country.
The project will tour, detail lodges, road conditions, route times between proposed stops, evaluating
the Somaliland leg with local authorities and stakeholders, similarly to the Ethiopian main side.
Issues regarding trans border tour operation, security and all other upcoming issues that regard
tourism there will be explored as carefully as possible.
A first time transnational cooperation will be elicited. Very few visit Laas Geel and even Berbera.
Enriching to Ethiopia, tourism cooperation may prove absolutely vital for Somaliland.
Laas Geel, just a walk from Hargeisa town centre. Man worshipping a cow
More Laas Geel marvels. The Sistine Chapel of prehistoric rock painting
Free photoes from www.flick.com © Ibrahim Hassan.
Seafront at Berbera, clockwise: a wreckage, the lighthouse, a house on the beach, the shores and port
Free photoes from www.flick.com © of the authors reserved
A trip South in the Rift.
The proposed extension of the Eastern Route to include the rift valley lakes has possible day visits,
or overnights in Zway, Langano, Awasa. Koka is an interesting artificial lake on the way from
Mojo, Wendo the Paradise as Haile Selassie named it a must visit, while the Rastas’ hamlet of
Shashamene-Melka Uda is worth a cultural visit.
Two of the Rift Valley Lakes, Abijata and Shala were the siege of an interesting park, whose
sorrowful state has been mentioned.
Wendo needs immediate attention, as deforestation is taking place at a rapid pace, since a few
months only, right on top and around His Majesty’s former villa (Beta Menghist), now part of the
State Run local Wabi Shebelle Hotel.
Forest fires. Just over the National College of Forestry in Natural spring in a forest clearing, Wendo Genet
Wendo. A two day’s effort to stop them, March 24th 2008,
after a night they were up running again.
Over the Awassa pass into Sidamo Land
The Sidamo way of life respects trees, knows no plastic bag, precious little or no air and water
pollution. We were not surprised to find here the right lodge project, so successful, and for precious
little investment, Aregash lodge in Irgalem, in a couple of photos here under. (from www.flicr.com)
A Minilik’s bushbuck slept just under our hut, we saw hyenas in the evening, with around ten
species of birds, including the African Fish Eagle and Vultures. The guy in the tent, Alessandro the
sociologist, had to come in at night, as the Hyena were around. The guards obliged us to dismantle
the tent in case it got damaged. We saw how Musa ensete, a banana tree is used to make a set of
different foods, bags and better packaging. Caves acting as refuges to explore, trees all over, just two
Km. from Irgalem town centre.
A cattle bone is the tool to extract the starches, the bulky end side of it thrashes the hearth of the stem, richer in
flours, the flat part acts as a knife to rip the leaf down. Rigorously clean feet! Photo courtesy Jonathan Pinna
Blue track option. The other side of the Rift, Ascending to Ankober on the Salt Road.
An enriching variation on the way back to Addis. It needs evaluation as the road from Awash to
Ankober via Aliyu Amba is not a commonly used road. It would bring a powerful glimpse of
Orthodox Christianity in the Highlands to let a voyager wholly understand Ethiopia, sloping along
the ancient salt route from the east to the west and north Empire.
Once again, the land of Myth where religious diversity is a wealth to show the world, not the
problem it has become in richer countries.
A group of prominent, clever people has built the ideal ecolodge for Ankober.
I was a bit shocked when I heard Minilik’s palace in Ankober was taken as the site of an hotel.
I feared just another destruction of an historic site. What I found instead was a brilliant Ethiopian
engineer living in Geneva was implied and his relative, Dr. Hailegabriel, the director of the Institute
of Ethiopian Studies was too. The result is in the photos, marvel and example, done on the model of
the still totally extant palace at Entoto. That palace itself was in all African History textboboks, but
was in a dismal state until a recent commendable restoration. Partly by the same group of people.
A night in the Ankober Palace lodge offers a sense of history, of the pride and glory we should
promote, amazing views, excursions towards an ancient monastery and Let Marefiá, a beautiful
countryside site that de facto acted as Italy’s first consulate in Abyssinia. Located just under
Ankober Lit or rather Lik marefiá was, around 1865, the naturalistic station and hospital of the most
honest of Italian explorer-colonialists, Orazio Antinori, a personal friend to Minilik.
Our mission to measure Ras Dejen restored his tomb site, dug by the field owner and friends to
resemble a pool of near Olympic site, after interest shown by the Italian Embassy in 2004 revived
the myth of the Fascist lost gold. We had the site refilled, defined the exact emplacement of the
tomb, prepared its further possible restoration.
The Ankober Hill Ankober Palace Lodge main hall
Serinus ankoberensis, found in 1974 Ankober in an ancient engraving Part of the archaeological site
Free photoes from www.flick.com © of the respective authors reserved.
Meftuh’s wish is in this image I used as introductory slide at the Addis Ababa conference to set up
the Kundudo Action Group. That body of clever sons and daughters of the foot of the Kundudo is
now in charge of the rapid intervention to save the feral horse pack and the mountain top.
Meftuh was a very young boy when he collected a bird like stone just to the left of this photo right
margin, on Mount Stinico, near the West Cave. “Mommy, I have found a bird, it is made of stone!”
His mother ordered the immediate return of the object to the cave, as a local myth wanted living
things to be converted to stones up there, in special occasions. He found and lost an obsidian cutter,
by the look of things, maybe a more significant ancient stone artefact.
Farhan, on seeing the snake the second mission to the Kundudo found, mentioned his grandmother.
She, up until her death around twenty years ago fed once a year a sacred serpent. He would be under
a certain tree at a specific time of the year. Hers was a special sacrifice, it had to be a black ox.
The pride for our mother land is the key to save it. The path to avoid its peculiarity, the special gift
of God and mankind that is our cultural and natural heritage, become lost history.
Those who have this pride, this unstoppable need are the real actors of a comeback that starts in their
dearest childhood memories. Tales they will be able tell, with a taste of success, to their kids.
That will make their sons and daughters in turn richer, fuller, Abesha in their Environment.
Marco, Varese and Prague, 1-9 April 2008