On the Trail of the Rare Ethiopian Wolf

The endangered Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) can be found in the highlands of Ethiopia in just seven isolated regions of the country. Since rocky areas and grasslands make up the majority of their habitat, these mammals can be rather difficult to locate. However, an organised wildlife holiday will provide opportunities for excellent sightings.

Facts

The animals have long snouts, slender limbs and bushy black tails, making them distinguishable from other similar mammals, such as foxes. Their tawny red coats are patterned with black and white marks around the underbelly – the white usually stretches up to the throat and underside of the muzzle. They can weigh between 11 and 20kg and are about a metre in length.

The largest population of Ethiopian wolves is in the Bale Mountains, in the south of the country, where approximately 120-160 of the remaining 400 are located. Elsewhere, the animals roam in isolated enclaves around the country and enjoy the Afro-alpine heathlands and grasslands.

These animals are largely family-oriented and their packs are made up exclusively of family members. Interestingly, this occasionally changes during breeding season when packs mingle with each other and there is a high potential of inbreeding. Packs are often quite large, as this ensures a substantial force to defend their territory, and there can be up to 13 in one group.

Survival Challenges

Ethiopian wolves survive in a relatively specific habitat and over recent years humans have been threatening this grassy landscape. Farming in the highlands has led to a decrease in potential living environments for the animals, and some have been forced to settle at higher altitudes that they are unfamiliar with. The overgrazing of livestock also contributes towards this issue.

Certain diseases are also exacerbating the reduction in population, with a decline of an astonishing 30% since 2008. Rabies and canine distemper are both serious concerns in the Bale Mountains and have certainly taken their toll on the wolf population.

Conservation

To ensure that the habitats stay protected, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is looking to improve the infrastructure around the national park, which will consequently increase revenue from the tourism community and decrease the need for sustenance farming.

‘Wolf Ambassadors’ have been appointed in various locations across the highlands, to monitor the animals and report any updates to the AWF. Locals are also being encouraged to vaccinate domesticated dogs against rabies to avoid spreading the disease to the endangered wolves.

Observe the Wolves on a Wildlife Holiday

An encounter with these rare and beautiful animals is possible with a professionally-organised wildlife holiday to Africa. Specialised nature tour companies offer excursions to the stunning unspoilt landscapes of the Awash National Park, Wondo Guenet, the Bale Mountains and other fascinating locations.

The experienced naturalists accompanying the tours have extensive knowledge of the animals and their habitat, so there really is no better way to enjoy the beauty of these rare creatures.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in rare and endangered animals. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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Author: Desiree Michels