Horn of Africa Acacia Savannas | WWF

Horn of Africa Acacia Savannas

High plateau country, Bale Mountains, Ethiopia.
© WWF / John E. NEWBY

About the Area

Temperatures are mild year-round on the Horn of Africa and rainfall isn't sufficient to sustain lush tropical rain forests.

The area thus comprises mainly bush land and thicket, with a gradation to semi-desert grasslands and shrub lands in the driest places. These woodlands and nearby grasslands and desert support many endemic dryland plants.

Several endemic species are found in the more mesic habitats found along the Jubba and Shabelle, the only permanent rivers in the area.

1,053,000 sq. km (407,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Eastern Africa: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan

Conservation Status:

Local Species
Birds include Degodi lark (Mirafra degodiensis), short-billed crombec (Sylvietta philippae), and bulo burti bush-shrike (Laniarius liberatus).

Mammals endemic to this ecoregion include the African wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis), Speke's gazelle (Gazella spekei), hirola (Damaliscus hunteri), dibatag (Ammodorcus clarkei), Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi), naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), and Hunter's hartebeest (Damaliscus hunteri).

Also seen here is a unique species of hedgehog, known by the Latin name Atelerix sclateri, moving quickly through the night.

Endemic reptiles include Taylor's strange agama (Xenagama taylori), similar agama (Agama persimilis), Atractaspis scorteccii, and Parker's leaf-toed gecko (Hemidactylus megalops).

Featured species

The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is not naked, nor is it a mole or a rat! It has pale, sparse hairs over pinkish gray skin. It has large incisors which are used to excavate tunnels and to eat. It is 8-9 cm long and weighs 30-80 gms. It lives exclusively in underground tunnels and burrows in semi-arid, grassy regions. Its diet is mainly tubers and roots.

The naked mole-rat is unusual in that it is the only known mammal to be eusocial (living in a colony like termites and ants) with a caste system. Colonies range from 20 to 300 individuals, with 1 breeding female (the queen) and 1 to 3 breeding males. The colonies inhabit elaborate tunnel systems, with the colony’s workers forming head-to-tail digging chains to tunnel and gather food.

Read more:
Grazing livestock and fuel wood collection pose major problems, particularly near villages and towns. The populations of most endemic and near endemic larger animals have declined dramatically and are very fragmented due to illegal hunting, following decades of political instability and open warfare over large parts of the region. There are concerns that the large animal populations in the region may become more fragmented in the future.
WWF’s work
WWF has been combating the negative trends of hunting for more than 40 years. The organization focuses particular attention on a small number of threatened and endangered species which are designated flagship species.

WWF has been working to conserve rhinos since the 1960s. The current African Rhino Programme, launched in 1997, provides technical and financial support to 12 rhino conservation projects across Africa and operates in partnerships with key African rhino range states.

Thanks to vigorous conservation and anti-poaching efforts, some African rhino populations are now stable or increasing. However, poaching still occurs, and some populations remain very small and threatened. Very few African rhinos now survive outside of protected areas.

Read more:

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions