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Location Ethiopia, Amhara
Central coordinates 39o 45.30' East  9o 42.06' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 19,000 ha
Altitude 1,650 - 3,700m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description This site comprises the extremely steep escarpment and a narrow strip of the plateau overlooking the Afar, from just north of Ankober, north to the area above Debre Sina in the vicinity of the Tarma Ber. Ankober is on an ancient route from the lowlands of the Afar up onto the central Ethiopian plateau. The topography of the area is steep and dissected by ravines and gorges through which rivers and streams tumble down the eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. The altitude ranges from 1,650 m near Tach Gorebela to 3,700 m near Kundi on the plateau. Man has for a long time heavily impacted the natural vegetation of most of this area. What little natural vegetation remains is to be found on the very steep sides of cliffs and inaccessible valley bottoms. Gosh Meda is a narrow strip at the eastern edge of the plateau, where the land is mostly over 2,800 m and peaks rise to 3,500 m. The eastern escarpment begins dramatically with sheer cliffs and steep slopes up to 1,000 m high. The vegetation is moist to dry Afro-alpine moorland with some stunted Erica arborea and shrubby Helichrysum spp. in sheltered places between rocks. In the open areas, over rocks and on the cliffs, many plants (such as Festuca spp., other grasses and Sedum spp.) grow in clumps, tussocks or cushions as an adaptation to the extreme of climate. Until recently, most of the area was used only for grazing cattle and sheep. However, since the 1970s, increasing expanses of moorland have been cultivated for barley.

The best-preserved area of natural forest is in the valleys of Wof-Washa. Wof-Washa forest lies between Debre Sina and Ankober in North Shewa Zone. It covers 13,000 ha in Baso, Werana and Ankober Weredas. The forest is on very steep slopes in (mostly east-facing) narrow valleys, with altitudes ranging from 2,000 m to 3,730 m. Wof-Washa is a montane, mixed (broadleaved and conifer) forest, the main species being Hagenia abyssinica, Olea europaea cuspidata and Juniperus procera at the higher altitudes, with Podocarpus falcatus and Allophylus abyssinicus lower down. At c.3,000 m, Erica arborea, Hypericum revolutum and giant Lobelia spp. replace the large trees. There are also extensive patches of the endemic Kniphofia foliosa, and clumps of Helichrysum spp. and Festuca grass. The herb layer within the forest is rich in species. Attempts have been made to build a logging road, but these have failed and the only timber taken out is what people can carry. When farmers are very busy with their cultivated crops, cattle are turned into the forest to range unattended; this represents the main use of the forest. Above the forest, the main activity is subsistence farming (barley, sheep and cattle). The cultivation of fields for barley has now expanded onto the steepest slopes that used to be covered with Afro-alpine vegetation.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This site supports the only known population of Serinus ankoberensis, a species confined to areas between 2,800 m and 3,750 m along the escarpment rim from Ankober to Tarma Ber, a distance of c.20 km. S. ankoberensis is typically not uncommon along the broken hilltops, and on the steeply shelving, near-vertical cliffs of the escarpment. The species also makes use of land adjacent to the escarpment edge, feeding on the uneven terrain of recently ploughed land. Breeding occurs at Gosh Meda between October and February, but it may breed in any season following heavy rain. The restricted-range Myrmecocichla melaena occurs in small numbers on rocky terrain adjacent to Gosh Meda, and in ravines and gorges at other points along the escarpment edge. Other species of interest recorded at this site include Gypaetus barbatus, Buteo oreophilus, Falco peregrinus, Accipiter rufiventris, Tachymarptis melba, Schoutedenapus myoptilus, Hirundo rupestris and Monticola solitarius.

Non-bird biodiversity: Theropithecus gelada (LR/nt) is still numerous at the top of the cliffs. A population of Canis simensis (CR) in the high-altitude area of Ankober was last recorded in 1991.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Francolinus psilolaemus resident  1996  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Erckel's Francolin Pternistis erckelii resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Blue-winged Goose Cyanochen cyanoptera resident  1996  present  A3  Vulnerable 
Wattled Ibis Bostrychia carunculata resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-collared Pigeon Columba albitorques resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Dusky Turtle-dove Streptopelia lugens resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Nyanza Swift Apus niansae resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Thick-billed Raven Corvus crassirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-billed Starling Onychognathus albirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Robin-chat Cossypha semirufa resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Moorland Chat Cercomela sordida resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Chat Myrmecocichla melaena resident  1996  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Cliff-chat Monticola semirufus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swainson's Sparrow Passer swainsonii resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Longclaw Macronyx flavicollis resident  1996  present  A3  Near Threatened 
Ethiopian Siskin Serinus nigriceps resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Citril Serinus citrinelloides resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-rumped Seedeater Serinus tristriatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Ankober Serin Serinus ankoberensis resident  1996  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Serinus striolatus resident  1996  present  A3  Not Recognised 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   98%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
water management -
other -
Notes: Cutting trees for domestic use.

References Ash (1979), Ash and Gullick (1989), Atkins (1992), Collar and Stuart (1985), Gunther (1993), Ministry of Agriculture (1980).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Ankober - Debre Sina escarpment. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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