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  • Writer's pictureJolene Botha

The Ethiopian Wolf: The most endangered canid in the world

The superstars of the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia are the Ethiopian wolves. Until recently, it was suspected that the Ethiopian wolf was really a fox in wolf’s clothing, given its deep red color, lithe frame and thin muzzle that is adapted to a diet entirely of rodents (there are 11 rodents endemic to the area).

Recent DNA research had confirmed that it is indeed a wolf, its closest living relative being the grey wolf of North America. The Ethiopian wolf is perilously endangered with only around 400 remaining, half of which live on and around the Sanetti Plateau. This makes it the most endangered carnivore in Africa and the most endangered canid in the world.

Numbers of these wolves have never been great, even with a prey population on the plateau greater than that of Africa’s savannas. As Professor Claudio Sillero, a conservation biologist at Oxford University and director of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme explains, it is the limitations of the frigid habitat, compounded in modern times by human encroachment, which is the major limiting factor.

Stock farmers have long used what is now a national park for seasonal grazing for cattle, but in recent years they have increasingly become permanent residents with large herds of cattle and several hundred attendant dogs. Dogs, being essentially overbred wolves, carry rabies and canine distemper across the domestic line, constituting an ever-present peril for the wolves.

Luckily, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has stepped in to “…[support] the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, which administers rabies and distemper vaccines to the wolves, but also to area domestic dogs, who can carry rabies and pose a significant disease threat if not vaccinated. To date, the program has vaccinated tens of thousands of dogs.

In partnership with the Ethiopian government, the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme also recruits local community members to act as Wolf Monitors and Wolf Ambassadors who track wolf populations and share conservation messages in communities. The monitors are very dedicated and work through all kinds of conditions to follow the wolf packs and keep up with their status and life events. This work is critical to ensuring a rapid response in the case of disease outbreaks.” – Jacqueline Conciatore, AWF

Ethiopian Wolf stands in Ethiopian wild lands

Read more from AWF about their conservation work and the Ethiopian wolf on their blog article “Saving the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf from extinction”, here:

Bushtracks Expeditions and AWF have a partnership that brings conservation-focused safaris to the market.  Our AWF-led safari, “Best of Ethiopia” will run October 6th to November 5th in 2020 and includes tracking the Ethiopian wolf in Bale Mountains National Park.  This incredible vacation will be lead by an AWF conservationists, exploring one of the most incredible destinations world-wide.  Learn more about and sign up for our AWF-led safaris here:

Learn more about how incredible Ethiopia is in our blog article by David Bristow, “Ethiopia Travel: The Bale Mountains a Place Like Nowhere Else”, here:

Contact us at (+1(800) 995-8689) to learn more about Ethiopian travel and the Ethiopian wolf, and/or to sign up for our upcoming “Best of Africa” safari.

The majority of this article was curated from David Bristow’s Insiders Africa article from June 13, 2015, titled “Ethiopia Travel: The Bale Mountains a Place Like Nowhere Else”, additional copy and editing was orchestrated by Bushtracks Expeditions.

The first version of this article was posted on 12 Dec 2019 at 2:06 PM.


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