Haramaya University and Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute signed a MoU with Oromia Environment, Forest and Climate Change Authority (OEFCCA) to conduct research on the Kundudo mountain horse species (Kundudo feral horse) and its ecology, design and implement sustainable conservation strategy including ex-situ, and develop a road map for ecotourism and for generating income from the genetic resource.

The agreement was signed on August 27, 2021 in a ceremony held at the Eastern Hararghe Administrative Hall in Harar.

According to Dr Kefena Effa, Almuni of Haramaya University and currently the Manager of Holeta Agricultural Research Center; Kundudo feral horse is the oldest horse type in Ethiopia. Kundudo feral horses are identified as critically endangered species population, of unknown origin, from the area of the Kundudo plateau near the city of Harar, in the East Hararge Zone of Oromia Regional State, he added.

The Kundudo Mountain, located in East Hararghe Zone (Jarso-Gursum districts), is known for its breathtaking landscape and a unique feral horse species (aka kundudo /qundhudhoo horses).

A PhD research conducted at Haramaya University had reportedly came up with a whistle blowing finding that such a special resource was in danger and on the verge of complete extinction and, therefore, urgent measure was imperative.

Through the effort made by Oromia Bureau of Agriculture & Natural Resources and later by Oromia Environment, Forest and Climate Change Authority (OEFCCA), the remaining nine horses were put back to their natural environment for conservation, it was indicated. Following this measure, the number of the kundudo horses has increased to 28.

The overall objectives of the MOU include conserving and protecting biodiversity of the Region, creating sustainable use of the genetic resource, and creating equal benefit sharing that raises from biological resource in the Region, it was highlighted.

Depending on these objectives, different activities were implemented for the last five years including strengthening of institutions and communities at different level through creating awareness in establishing In-situ conservation for conserving rare threatened and endangered species. Examples include kundudo In-situ conservation site, controlling invasive species (like water hircine), as well as conserving and monitoring different protected area and wetlands or ecosystem that are located in the Region, among others.

During the signing ceremony, Dr. Feleke Woldeyes, Deputy Director of the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity, said there are more than 6,000 flowering plants, 320 mammals, 926 birds, 73 frogs, 242 reptiles, 200 fish and more than 4,693 species of insects, most of which are found only in Ethiopia, including Kundudo feral horses.

Dr. Feleke added the Kundudo feral horses are found in the category of gamma cattle which is one of the main pillars of diversity.

According to Dr. Bona, this agreement is very essential to increase the number of Kundudo feral horses as well as to improve the income in tourism by working in collaboration with all stakeholders.

Dr.Tesfaye Lema, Vice President for Research Affairs on behalf of Haramaya University President, said Haramaya University has a responsibility to take care of the Kundudo horses in conducting research based on the knowledge to fulfil the objectives of the MoU.

Dr. Tesfaye (HU), Dr. Feleke Woldeyes (EBI) and Obbo Bona Yadessa (OEFCCA) signed the agreement representing their respective institutions.

Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) recognized Kundudo as one of its National Biodiversity Conservation Sites and promised to take management’s responsibility, among other things.

Dr. Bona as well as Dr. Tesfaye underlined that there should be a sense of ownership by the surrounding communities and local administration as they are critical success factors in addition to joint resources mobilization effort through competitive grant and other strategies, including infrastructure development.

Besides contributing towards conservation and tourism development, the initiative would provide a rare opportunity for research and hands on practical training involving postgraduate students, according to the representatives of the University.

During the occasion, Delegate of East Hararge Zone Administration Office, Sister Merema Mohammed, said depending on the aim the MoU, her Office is committed to work actively on various activities in collaboration with the concerned stakeholders.