Chilimo-Gaji forest

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Chilimo forest is in Western Shoa Zone close to Ghinchi town, Capital of Dendi District, and 90 km west of Addis Ababa. This area is at the western end of a chain of hills and ridges that stretches 200 km from north of Addis Ababa westwards up to the Ghedo Highlands. River valleys and gorges cut through the hills. Chilimo forest is one of the few remnants of dry Afro-montane forest that remain on Ethiopian Central Plateau. The vegetation throughout this area has been subject to human impact for over 2,000 years (longer than in any other East African country), and the rate of deforestation has been extremely high, with significant changes in forest cover observed even since the 1970s. The forest is montane mixed broadleaf–coniferous, although conifers predominate. The main species in the canopy are Juniperus procera, Podocarpus falcatus, Prunus africana, Olea europaea cuspidata, Apodytes dimidiata and Ficus spp. Historically, this entire upland area is thought to have been covered by Juniperus–Podocarpus forest, but most of the forest has been cleared for agriculture, and this encroachment continues. Selective cutting of trees for commercial use stopped about 1973, but illegal cutting by the local people continues. Various types of shrubland now dominate the landscape. The forest is important to local people for grazing their animals. A few shrub species dominate, such as Myrsine africana, with others like Maytenus arbutifolia and Rubus apetalus abundant indicators of forest disturbance. Small patches of plantation forests, initiated by the Forestry Department of the State in 1976, are present within the forested lands. Indigenous and exotic species are used, the main exotic species being Eucalyptus saligna, E. camaldulensis, Pinus patula and Cupressus lusitanica, with indigenous ones including Juniperus procera, Hagenia abyssinica and Podocarpus falcatus. Chilimo forest is threatened by excessive exploitation and conversion to other land-uses.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. A total of 150 bird species has been recorded at this site, five of which are Ethiopian endemics, and many more are Afrotropical Highlands biome species. Of interest among the biome species are Bostrychia carunculata, Agapornis taranta, Tauraco leucotis, Lybius undatus, Zoothera piaggiae, Pseudoalcippe abyssinica, Parophasma galinieri, Parus leuconotus, Oriolus monacha, Corvus crassirostris, Poeoptera stuhlmanni, Onychognathus tenuirostris, Cinnyricinclus sharpii, Cryptospiza salvadorii and Serinus nigriceps. Chilimo forest supports populations of many other important birds including Accipiter melanoleucus, A. tachiro, Buteo buteo, B. oreophilus, Aquila pomarina, A. verreauxii, the poorly known Kaupifalco monogrammicus and the forest specialist Stephanoaetus coronatus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The endemic Tragelaphus scriptus meneliki occurs. A significant number of Afro-montane endemic tree and shrub species occur at this site, along with the Ethiopian endemics Erythrina brucei, a tree species which occurs in more open and inhabited areas, and the shrub Acanthus sennii.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Chilimo forest was heavily exploited during the 1940s. There were about six sawmills in the area, at Jumjum, Gaji, Bejiro and Chilimo, and as a consequence there is virtually no forest at any of these sites except for Chilimo and part of Gaji. In 1982, a large area of land embracing Chilimo, the nearby Gaji forest and surrounding woodland were designated as Chilimo-Gaji National Forest Priority. However, conversion of forest to other land-uses and illegal cutting of trees for local use and timber remain the major threats. In 1982, the forest area was surveyed at 22,000 ha. A recent (late 1990s) inventory by the Forest Inventory Team of Oromiya Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection (NRDEP) Bureau suggested the total had been reduced to c.12,000 ha. This reduction is confirmed by a comparison of aerial photos from 1980 and 1994 that revealed a loss of c.50% of forested land. The actual forest-cover of Chilimo area is now only c.2,400 ha.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chilimo-Gaji forest. Downloaded from on 25/09/2020.