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Menelik's Bushbuck

Amharic:Dukula:- Belonging to the same family as the Mountain Nyala, the Kudu, the Bongo and the Eland, the bushbuck shares with them the family characteristic of shy and elusive behaviour. Over forty races

of bushbuck have been identified, which vary considerably both from the point of view of colouration and from the type of habitat they frequent. Most of them are forest- living animals inhabiting dense bush, usually near water, though this is not an essential, as some of them have been known to go without drinking for long periods when necessary.

Of the two Ethiopian races, meneliki and powelli, the latter is the more common and somewhat smaller. But Menelik's is also fairly widespread and can be seen in much of Ethiopia's highland forest up to the treeline at 4,000 metres (13,000 ft.) They are com mon, for example, in the cedar forests of Menagesha and parts of the Entoto range, even ir, eucalyptus groves as long as there is still some ground cover. No accurate estimate has been made of their total population because of their nocturnal and furtive habits. Like the Mountain Nyala, they are easier to observe in the Bale Mountains National Park where they are fully protected and therefore a little less shy. Powelli inhabits the lower lying country, so between them they cover almost all types of habitat, from highland forest to savanna woodland - with the exception of open country.

In Bale, as you climb up through the hagenia forest with its flowering trees, and enter the zone of Giant Heath and St. John's Wort, sunlight dapples the ground beneath your feet, lichens hang softly from every twig and bright dark green mosses clothe the branches. Suddenly a glimpse of bright chestnut draws your attention to the female bushbuck, and usually not far away is the shining dark, almost black, male. Bushbucks are often solitary, but in Bale anyway, Menelik's is almost always seen in pairs or small family parties of female and young. They are extremely beautiful little animals, with a coat longer than that of other bushbucks, perhaps because of living in the lower temperatures of high altitudes. The horns, which are carried only by the male, have a spiral twist and a well-defined longitudinal ridge or keel on the front or back surfaces, and transverse rings. The record horn length is 34.93 cms.

They stand 80-90 cms. (35 inches) at the shoulder and slightly higher at the rump, running along in a hunched up manner between the bushes and shrubs. They have large broad ears and when they stop to regard an intruder the ears with their tufts of white are conspicuous. A spinal crest of longish white or black hairs runs down the centre of the back. A white spot on the cheek, and on the female sometimes a blackish collar on the lower neck, faint white spots on the haunches, and limbs with a contrasting dark and light pattern. The tail is bushy and long, reaching to just above the hocks, white underneath and black- tipped.

Most bushbuck tend to spend the heat of the day lying up in dense bush where there is no hope of spotting them. The highland forest where Menelik's bushbuck lives, is relatively cool and you can see them (if you are in luck) at any time of day. It is more usual however, to spot them from about four o'clock onwards, or in the early morning. They have a loud barking alarm call, sometimes repeated, which can be heard from some distance away, and also a series of grunts. Very few Menelik's have been collected by sportsmen. The multiplication of numbers in the park could lead to its greater accessibilty to authorised huntsmen, and produce an income for conservation.

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P.O.Box 10621,Addis Ababa,
e-mail : info@panoramicethiopiatour.com
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panoramicethiopia@yahoo.comLocation : Atlas Hotel Road to Hayahulet
Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia