Mountain Nyala

Amharic:Dega Agazain:- The Mountain Nyala was the last of the great African antelopes to become known to science, and still today very little is known about its habits or the full extent of its range. It was first collected by Major Ivor Buxton in 1908 and at that time seemed to be fairly widespread throughout the Arsi and Bale regions. Large numbers of them lived at very high altitudes, between ten and thirteen thousand feet, in the mountain forests where it was cold and wet much of the time, until the pressure of the human population destroyed vast tracts of their forest habitat. In Arsi the population is now reduced to a remnant.

Fortunately in Bale, despite a certain amount of burning of the heath, great tracts of mountain giant heath forest and hagenia were left unspoiled and the Nyala were never seriously threatened with extin- ction. They were so much hunted that they became even more wary and shy than is their nature and one rarely caught more than a glimpse of them as they melted away into the bush. The creation of the Bale Mountains National Park has considerably altered this picture. Here, where they are fully protected, they are beginning to be much more confident, and one can see them readily, especially in the mornings and evenings when they come down in to the hagenia forest on the lower slopes to graze. They are breeding prolifically and comparatively large groups of females and young can be seen.

Nyala are a magnificent sight, particularly the old bulls with their fine spiralled horns. Females do not carry horns and they have rather long necks and large ears, which are very conspicuous. The body colour of an old male is dark grey, with a line of long hair along the back forming a straggly mane which continues' along the spine as a brown and white crest. Young calves are bright rufous and can be mistaken for bushbuck if the mother is not seen. Females are redder that the males, although they tend to become greyer with age. They move in parties or small herds of about five to ten females, and although the really old bulls are solitary and not often seen, young adult males carrying quite impressive spreads of horns, can sometimes be seen with or near the herds of females and young, and males are sometimes seen in small groups of two or three individuals.