The nearest highest mountain outside Lalibela is the third highest peak in Ethiopia known as the Abune Yoseph Massif, which is 4284m above sea level known for its unique and extraordinary landscape and its Afro-Alpine vegetation with some of the endemic wild animals such as Gelada Baboons, the Ethiopian Wolves and of course rich in its endemic birdlife that survive on the high altitude in which 220 Bird Species out of 860 total species of birds found in Ethiopia and Eritrea have been identified in the Abune Yoseph Massif and seven endemic birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea have been noted at this high altitude area in which their names are Yellow-Fronted Parrot, Erlanger’s Lark, Abyssinian Long claw, Abyssinian Catbird, Black-Headed Siskin, Ankober Serin, and Blue-Winged Goose.
ABUNE YOSEPH COMMUNITY CONSERVATION AREA is located at 12° 12’ N, 39° 12’ E, which is North of Lalibela town in Northern Wollo Zone in Lasta Province. It covers 70KM² area of Afro-alpine habitat and spectacular scenery. Abune Yoseph peak (Rim Gedel) is 4284 meters high in its altitude.
Abune Yoseph Massif Afro-alpine habitat covers 70km2 (Seventy Kilometer Square) protected by the support from Frankfurt Zoological Society (NGO) that worked hard through several years to give great awareness about the importance of preserving this wonderful environment for future generations and now it is designated as Conservation Area and the Ethiopian Government is allocating finance annually starting from March 2017G.C. in an effort to the conservation of this natural wonder of Ethiopia.
The Abune Yoseph Mountainous Area is made up of a diversity vegetation types including bushlands, woodlands, Montane Dry Forests, and Afroalpine Grassland. The massif is made up of three main ecosystems, the montane dry forest, montane grassland, and the Afroalpine ecosystems, which exist in altitudinal belts from 2000m asl to 4284m asl.
The montane dry forest exists between 2950m and 3300m. The dominant species are, Erica Arborea, Hypericum Revolution (St. John’t Wort), African Juniper (Juniperus Procera), & Rose Abyssinica (The only wild rose in Africa). The densely vegetated forest, placed on the Northwestern slope, sustains a large diversity of mammals and birds.
The montane grasslands, between 3,300m up to 3600m, tall grasses, giant lobelias and different thistles become more frequent.
The magnificent Afroalpine- moving from 3600m up to 4284m, the vegetation changes rather abruptly in to moorlands covered with the shrubby vegetation of Euryops Pinifolius.
Many plants of the area are used in the home, Guassa Grass (Festuca Abyssinica) is used to build house roofing as well as to make rope. Local people also use the yellow fruits of Solanum Giganteum as a detergent for washing clothes and medicinal plants for human and livestock health are also collected from Abune Yoseph Mountainous Conservation Area.
There are 43 known species of mammals on the Abune Yoseph massif. Among the 32 species of Abyssinian endemic mammals (endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea), 7 can be found in Abune Yoseph. The most spectacular of these are the Ethiopian Wolves, the Gelada Baboon and Starck’s Hare. Other species to look out for include the Golden Jackal, Hyena, caracal, Leopard, Rock Hyrax, Duiker, and Klipspringer and so on.
Among 860 species of birds found in Ethiopia, over 220 birds have been identified on the Abune Yoseph massif. The Abune Yoseph mountainous area is one of the most important bird areas in the country though, it might have not been mentioned in the Birdlife International site and other important Bird Guide Books. The Abune Yoseph Mountains also attract a few pairs of Golden Eagles- a species that is more common in Bale Mountains to the south.
Birds endemic to Ethiopia, which are found in Abune Yoseph Mountains Conservation Area are
Common Name……………………….Scientific Name
Yellow Fronted Parrot………………………Poicephalus Flavifrons
Erlarger’s Lark………………………………….Calandrella Erlangeri
Abyssinian Longclaw………………………….Macronyx Flavicollis
Abyssinian Catbird…………………………….Paroplasma Galinieri
Black Headed Siskin…………………………..Serinus Nigriceps
Ankober Serin……………………………………Serinus Ankoberensis
Blue- winged Goose……………………………Cyanochen Cyanopterus
The monastery is 14th century monastery established by St. Abune Yoseph who is teacher and preacher of the bible. The saint remained here all his life long after he established the monastery. The Legend Says- “St. Abune Yoseph encountered a farmer looking after cropland and crying and when St. Abune Yoseph asked him what was wrong, he replied that his mother had passed away and he was unable to go to the funeral because if he didn’t stay to watch over the farm and keep the Geladas from eating the newly sprouted crops, his family wouldn’t have food for the year, up on hearing this, St. Abune Yoseph offered to watch over the land so the farmer could attend his mother’s funeral. When the farmer left the monkeys approached then St. Abune Yoseph sternly told them that the local people’s farmland wasn’t their territory and instead they should remain in the grasslands of the mountains.
The next day, St. Abune Yoseph held a meeting on the plateau- the geladas on one side, the villagers on the other hand. The saint proclaimed that during harvest time, the local people shouldn’t collect the residual crops but instead leave them for the Geladas who would be free to eat them once the harvest was completed.
Additionally after sifting to separate the seed from the straw, the local people shouldn’t collect the seeds that spilled and they would become available to the Geladas after harvest. He told the Geladas that from plowing to harvest they were not allowed on the farms to eat and in return, the local people wouldn’t graze their livestock on the mountain grasses where the Geladas forage.
Since then, the Geladas and local people have respected their promises. You may even see Geladas on the boundaries of farms, although you won’t see them eating any crops. This story is summarized. On a goatskin painting in the nearby St. Abune Yoseph cave church at the monastery. Trekking to this particular natural wonder of Ethiopia can be arranged as a full-day excursion tour by combining a drive or it can also be explored by following trekking routes by staying at community lodges run by the community themselves in which a duration of five to six hours trek daily is tolerable even for the inexperienced trekkers or hikers that need to make three nights stay on the wondrous mountains of Ethiopia. We do advise and we provide itineraries on possible routes to explore the area.