Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ethiopian Wolf

Despite looking quite foxy, the Ethiopian Wolf (or Abyssinian Wolf, Abyssinian Fox, Ethiopian Jackal, etc) is actually.. A wolf. Canus simensis in fact. They are endemic to only a few small mountainous pockets in Ethiopia. This canine has become seriously endangered with the rise of high altitude agriculture, which brings with it humans and domestic dogs, which compete for food and carry disease. 
Image from the EWCP

The disease issue has been especially troubling in recent years, with 90 wolves dying of rabies in 2003, and 40 dying to distemper in 2008. Another rabies outbreak also hit in 2008. Vaccination campaigns have been underway in order to save the species, which numbers only around 500 individuals. This is especially alarming when one finds out that not only have these wolves never been bred in captivity, but there don't seem to be any in captivity in the first place. Those 500-ish wolves are the only ones we've got.

Ethipian wolves differ in many ways from their Grey and Red Wolf cousins. First off, they are much, much smaller. This is one of the reasons why they were for so long considered to be a fox or jackel. Where Grey Wolves can easily weight upwards of 80lbs, with red wolves a bit smaller, Ethiopian wolves rarely exceed 45lbs. They also differ in their diets and hunting techniques. Where Grey Wolves work cooperatively to take down large prey, the Ethiopian Wolf hunts alone, feeding of a diet that is over 95% small rodent. (Red Wolves also hunt alone, but cooperation has also been documented) They have been limited to such small meals because there are simply no large prey animals to be found in their high altitude habitat.

The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme is working hard to protect this species by educating the locals, providing the aforementioned vaccinations, monitoring the number of individuals, preventing inbreeding with the domestic dog populations, and protecting their natural habitat. 

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