Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea

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The first scientific expeditions to Ethiopia date to the first half of the 19th century. One of the best known was the german zoological, meteorological, and ethnographic expedition of Eduard Rüpell (1830-1834) into the land of “Galla” and “Borana” (nowaday southern and central Ethiopia). Later, during the second half of the 19th century there were expeditions mainly from Italy and England, which broght forward some major discoveries in herpetology of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibuti, and Eritrea ( Ruspolli, Calabressi, Bottego, Ragazzi, Gasca, Tellini, Schiff, baron Carlo von Erlanger......etc). Later still, during the first half of the 20th century we encounter names such as Parker, Scortecci, Testi ....etc. During the 19th and 20th centuries it was quite common that military campaigns were accompanied by zoologists, botanists and cartographers. The most important herpetologists of this region during end of the 20th and the begining of the 21th century were D.W. Yalden, J.B.Rasmussen, M.J.Largen, D.G.Broadley, S.Spawls and the most accomplished of them all Benedetto Lanza. Of course there were many others, perhaps less known amateur or professional herpetologists who contributed information pertaining to the study of herpetofauna of Ethiopia. They deserve our thanks as well. The great vastness and diversity of the Ethiopian landscape contributes to the rich variety and high number of endemic species present. The eastern Ethiopa cuts deep into the Horn of Africa and spreads over great part of the Somali region, thus many of the species endemic to Somalia are also present in Ethiopia. For example, the recently endemic species for Somalia only such as Xenagama taylori, Xenagama battillifera, Hemitheconyx taylori and some others are now known also from Ethiopia. There is a good reason to believe, that because of infrequency of collecting attempts within this area, there will be many new discoveries for Ethiopia made in the future. In the south-western part of Ethiopia we can find some East African species typical for southern Sudan and Kenya such as Agama lionotus, Varanus albigularis, Philochortus sp. , and many others. From snakes these are for example Naja melanoleuca, Naja ashei, Echis pyramidum, Causus rhombeatus.....etc. The central mountainous part of Ethiopia is an isolated region caught between the hot Rift Valley and Sudanese Sahel savanah and some highlands (Bale, Ahmar) east of Rift Valley. In the moist forests and high mountains there lives a number of endemic species of amphibians and reptiles and surely there will be more new discoveries coming. These are, for example, the big viper Bitis parviocula, Chamaeleo(Trioceros) affinis, Ch.(T.) balebicornatus, Ch.(T.) harenae or snakes of the genus Pseudoboodon, or the rare Lamprophis erlangeri and Lamprophis abyssinicus. From amphibians we can mention caecilians Silvacaecilia grandisonae, or frogs from the high mountains Altiphrynoides malcolmi, Spinophrynoides osgoodi or Balebreviceps hillmani. The northern part of Ethiopia partially reaches the southern Sahara and Sahel region and so we can find spesies such as agamas Pseudotrapelus sinaitus, Agama spinosa, lizards Acanthodactylus boskianus, geckos Tarentola annularis, or snakes Naja nubiae and Psammophis schokari. Lastly there is the region of the Danakil depression and the surrounding areas near Djibuti, where we can find number of species which are usually known from the Arab peninsula and Red Sea coast (Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt). These are Platyceps rhodorachis, Pristurus crucifer, Pristurus flavipunctatus, Hemidactylus sinaitus, Uromastyx ocellata, Hemidactylus foudai, Sclerophrys dodsoni and S.blanfordii or Saw-Scaled Viper Echis varia.

Author: Vladimir Trailin Article title: Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea Website title: Reptiles-of-ethiopia-and-eritrea.com



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