Mount Zuquala is in East Shewa Zone, 74 km south-south-east of Addis Ababa. It is an isolated volcanic cone which rises to 3,000 m from the surrounding plain at around 2,000 m. This extinct volcano is on the western edge of the Great Rift Valley, and can be seen easily from Addis Ababa. A monastery is situated in the north-eastern portion of the caldera. There is a lake at the bottom, and the surrounding slopes support dry montane forest dominated by Juniperus procera, with some patches of Olea africana cuspidata and grassland. The extent of forest is c.197 ha, the grassland c.31 ha and the lake surface c.39 ha. The lake is surrounded by Typha spp., sedges and rushes, and is only disturbed where the monks and nuns collect water. The grassland along the east shore is seasonally inundated and the grasses grow tall before being cut for thatch. There is also an area of dry grassland, rich in grass and herb species. The forest is diverse, with 217 species of flowering plants and ferns recorded. The forest adjacent to the grassland is the richest, with several tree species beside the dominant Juniperus procera and Olea africana cuspidata, namely Ilex mitis, Pittosporum viridiflorum, Buddleja polystachya and Maytenus obscura. The canopy is open, providing light for a rich herb flora as well as the climbers. Only Juniperus procera is found on the steeper slopes and this gives way to Erica arborea on the western half of the crater rim. Near the monastery there are trees up to 25 m tall and on the southern side some trees reach 35 m, but elsewhere they are more stunted. The forest is rich in epiphytic lichens that collect moisture from the mist that often gathers around the summit of the mountain. The outer slopes near the top of the mountain are more gently sloping and support grassland, farming activities and a village community. Lower down, the slopes become very steep and are broken up by a series of ravines. There is a small plantation of exotic trees on the eastern slope, but otherwise the only trees are those in the village, on some terraces between older fields, and in the ravines. The rest of the area comprises heavily grazed shrubby grassland.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The site holds a particularly high number of Afrotropical Highlands biome species including Bostrychia carunculata, Cyanochecn cyanopterus, Agapornis taranta, Tauraco leucotis, Lybius undatus, Dendropicos abyssinicus, Thamnolaea semirufa, Parophasma galinieri, Parus leuconotus, Onychognathus tenuirostris, O. albirostris and Cinnyricinculus sharpii. Other birds of interest include small numbers of Oxyura maccoa and several other Afrotropical waterfowl species, small numbers of various Palearctic ducks and small wintering populations of various Palearctic passerine migrants. There is a small roosting population of Gyps rueppellii, and Aquila verreauxii, Jynx ruficollis and Monticola solitarius occur.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Orthodox monastery dedicated to Abba Gebre Menfes Kidus (usually called Abbo) protects the area inside the crater, including the lake. The local farming community was also involved in protecting the area until the mid-1970s, but they are now somewhat in conflict with the monastery on the use of the forest and access to the lake and its surrounding grassland. After this conflict arose, more people moved into the village and the area of cultivation outside the crater was increased. People also started to encroach on the forest, grazing their animals and cutting down the smaller trees to build houses, as a consequence of which there is now little evidence of Juniperus procera regeneration in the forest. The people’s greatest need is wood for building and fuel; a small plantation of some 18 ha has been created, but many more fast-growing trees are needed. The Orthodox monastery is anxious to get more support for its conservation work. In 1995, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the Lutheran World Federation/World Service had an integrated rural development project for the Zuquala area.