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Ethiopian Wolf Project is a blog post from the Ethiopian Wolves category.

Ethiopian Wolf Project

Posted by Will on

In the remote highlands of Ethiopia lives the rarest canid on Earth: the Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis). Today, less than 450 of these elegant animals survive.

Ethiopian wolves may look like foxes or jackals but DNA analysis shows that their closest relatives are actually the grey wolves of Europe. 100,000 years ago, a common ancestor of both the grey wolf and the Ethiopian wolf moved down from Europe into Africa. It came across an Afroalpine habitat that teemed with rodents. Its descendants stopped hunting in packs and became rodent-hunting specialists. The species evolved to become completely dependent on this abundant prey source. Then, at the end of the last ice age, the Afroalpine areas receded and the wolves became marooned in a few isolated mountain highland areas surrounding the Great Rift Valley. Now the wolves’ high-altitude sanctuaries are under siege from an ever-increasing human population and the species has been brought to the edge of extinction…

An endangered Ethiopian wolf in the Web Valley, Bale Mountains.

The people of the Ethiopian highlands are predominately goat and cattle herders. As they encroach on the wolves’ habitat, overgrazing and soil compaction drastically reduces the density of the wolves’ rodent prey. The herders also keep domestic dogs to help protect their animals from leopards and hyenas. These dogs lead semi-feral lives and often come into contact with the wolves. This is a problem because the dogs can easily transmit diseases such as rabies and canine distemper virus (CDV) to the wolves. Two rabies outbreaks in 2008 and 2009 plus a CDV outbreak in 2010 resulted in 26% of the wolves in the Bale Mountains disappearing. If the wolf population doesn’t have time to recover between disease outbreaks then impending extinction becomes a real possibility.

Ethiopian wolf portrait
Ethiopian wolf portrait

In November 2011, Rebecca Jackrel and I travelled to the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia, home to the largest remaining wolf population. Our aim was to spend five weeks photographing the wolves and documenting the work of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP). We raised the funds for this expedition through a Kickstarter campaign – a huge thank you to all the contributors who helped make the project a reality!

An Ethiopian wolf hunting a grass rat.
Giant mole rats are the wolves' primary prey.

Despite the wolves’ solitary hunting habits, they are actually very sociable animals and form packs just like their grey wolf cousins. Our trip coincided with denning season and we were able to see firsthand how all members of the pack worked closely together to feed and care for the alpha female’s pups.

Excited pups greeting an adult who has returned from hunting.
Ethiopian wolves are very affectionate animals.

It was a wonderful privilege to witness the pups exploring the outside world for the first time and to watch them grow in strength and confidence each day.

A young wolf pup explores the outside world.
A wolf pup investigates BeetleCam.
As the wolf pups grow, their games become more boisterous!

Our trip also coincided with an exciting new initiative by the EWCP. They were trialing a new form of oral rabies vaccine to help protect the wolves against future rabies outbreaks. In order to gauge the effectiveness of the trial, they had to catch wolves that had been administered the vaccine and test to see if antibodies were present. Initial results were very encouraging which means the outlook for the species is a little brighter.

Wolves of the Tarura Pack, the focal pack for this trail.
Claudio Sillero from the EWCP with a sedated wolf.

The ultimate aim of our Ethiopian Wolf Project was twofold: to raise public awareness for the plight of this little-known species and to raise funds and support for the EWCP. To this end, we teamed up with writer Jaymi Heimbuch to produce a beautiful and informative coffee table book. This large (360mm x 285mm), 152-page book features many spectacular pictures from our trip and lots of information about the wolves and the work of the EWCP. Best of all, 100% of the profit from sales goes directly to the EWCP! The book is now available to buy here: The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction.

The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction

A big thank you once again to everyone who has supported our project and to the EWCP for working tirelessly to protect the unique and beautiful Ethiopian wolf. You can view more Ethiopia photos here.

8 Comments

  1. Susie Wonfor said: June 4, 2014 at 10:03 am

    What beautiful creatures and stunning photography. I long to visit the highlands of Ethiopia. This publication is a powerful way to bring awareness to the endangered status of this species. I congratulate you

  2. Barbara Moriarty said: June 4, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful Newsletter.

    BARB

  3. Ravi Posavanike said: June 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Very nice and informative article

  4. Netty said: June 6, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Very interesting article and wonderful photos !

  5. Darren Poke said: June 14, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Love these photos, what a lovely animal.

    Thanks for what you are doing to bring awareness to their situation.

    My 9 yo son has recently started a blog about animals and would love to feature the Ethiopian Wolf in a post to help raise awareness. Would he be able to use one of your photos in his post?

    Thanks again, you are a remarkable photographer.

  6. Valerie Orcutt said: August 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I spent time in the Peace Corps in Adua in 1968-69. Your pictures make me homesick for the wonderful people, amazing scenery, and great food! Those years were the best in my life! Thank you for sharing your spectacular pictures.

  7. monica chu said: September 10, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Thank you for taking all of photos that bring me into the wonderful journey.
    I love them all, especially the baby animals:)

  8. Revanth said: November 7, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Sir,
    I am impressed on your photographs…

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