Africa is famous for its wildlife- animals like lions, zebras, elephants, rhinoceros and giraffes are often the first ones to come to mind. However, there are plenty of other animals that are found on the continent. The Ethiopian wolf (also known as the red jackal, horse’s jackal and Simien jackal) is one of these. They are larger than jackals, but are still quite small (normally around half a metre tall). The wolves have red-brown fur and white bands on the sides of their necks.
Where are they found?
As their name suggests, the Ethiopian wolf is only found in Ethiopia. They live in the Afroalpine regions of the country, high up in the mountains. In fact, the entire population (360-440 individuals) is divided across just 7 mountain ranges and national parks.
What issues are Ethiopian wolves facing?
Ethiopian wolves are an endangered species, which means that they are at risk of completely disappearing. They are at risk because humans are moving into their habitats (the natural homes of the wolves) and setting up farms. Moving up higher into the mountains is a good idea for humans, because the soil and rainfall is better for farming. However, this leaves the wolves with less space.
The human communities also tend to bring dogs with them. Since wolves and dogs are related, diseases can pass between them. The two most common ones have been rabies and distemper, which are really dangerous for the wolves. In fact, some outbreaks of rabies in Ethiopian wolves have killed ¾ of the population in one go. There have been regular outbreaks of these diseases every couple of years, which makes it difficult for the Ethiopian wolf populations to recover.
Why are Ethiopian wolves important?
Ethiopian wolves are the only species of wolf in Africa, and are also the continent’s most endangered carnivore. They are important because they are an “endemic species”, which means they are only found in one location. This also means they have unique features that can’t be found in other animals, and so are important to protect.
What is being done to help them?
Since they are an endemic species, any threats to their survival are extra serious. Research scientists from universities in Europe have been working with the Ethiopian government and local communities for many years to protect the species. Since the wolves only eat rodents, they aren’t a threat to farmer’s livestock. This makes it easier to work with local farmers to conserve the wolves.
The scientists are vaccinating the wolves against the diseases rabies and distemper. This helps stop the spread of disease, as the wolves’ bodies will be prepared for future outbreaks, and so won’t die. They have started using edible vaccines, which makes it much easier to vaccinate these wild animals.
To protect their habitat, national parks have been created in the mountains where the wolves live. They are also encouraging the community to set up eco-tourism businesses, to create more interest in the wolves while helping the locals make money. The scientists run education programs in the school and villages around the mountains where the wolves live. This helps the local community understand the importance of protecting the species.
While there is still lots of work to be done, working with the local community has been a key reason why these programmes have worked. This collaboration will make sure that these conservation efforts will continue in the future.