The first large-scale record of gelada's spatial distribution and population size in Mountain chains of Tigray, Northern Ethiopia

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 9, September 2023
Haileselasie T.H., Mulualem G., Welegerima K.

Gelada (Theropithecus gelada) is an Ethiopian endemic mammal whose range was previously believed to be limited to the Bale and Simien Mountain national parks. However, knowledge of the range of the species is still not satisfactory. This study was designed to investigate the distribution and population size of the gelada in selected highlands in Tigray. To achieve this, study areas were divided into census tracts identified for a direct field assessment using habitat-based counting approaches. Moreover, informal interviews were conducted parallel to the direct field assessment in different villages. Our large spatial scale survey, the first of its kind for the region, confirmed the presence of T. gelada in three mountain clusters in Tigray for the first time. A total of 223 individual geladas were recorded in Ganta Afeshum, Hawzen and Welkait escarpments. The highest number of individuals (35.7 ± 3.8) was recorded in Hawzen (with 6.99 individuals/km2), followed by Ganta Afeshum (with 4.3 individuals/km2). Agricultural expansion, settlement and a lack of community awareness are the key threats operating against the conservation of the gelada in its current range in Tigray. Further research on the overall ecology, feeding, and spatial distribution of the species should be projected.