With only about 500 adults left, the Ethiopian Wolf is the rarest candid species in the world and is dangerously close to extinction. While habitat loss and fragmentation are the biggest contributors to their decline, Ethiopian Wolves are also greatly compromised by diseases transmitted by domestic dogs, persecution from humans, and hybridization with domestic dogs. Home to many endemic species, the Afroalpine ecosystem in which the wolves live is also very close to being lost completely. In response to the rapidly declining population, Chris Hillman and Claudio Sillero formed the Ethiopian Wolf Project in 1988, which later gave rise to the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program (EWCP) in 1995.
With Ethiopian Wolves now only existing in small, isolated population, their survival is severely jeopardized by loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding, and the entire population could easily be wiped out by a natural catastrophe or disease epidemic. Understanding as much as possible about their ecology, biology, and behavior is critical to saving this species from extinction, thus research is at the core of the EWCP’s objectives. The program closely monitors each sub-population of wolves and works closely with sutdents and researchers to understand every element of this endangered species.With ever-expanding human populations, the wolves come into contact with domestic dogs quite frequently. Consequently, wolves are susceptible to disease that the domestic dogs carry (specifically rabies) and mating has occurred between the two dog species, giving rise to hybrid offspring.
EWCP tries to counteract the effects of the domestic dogs. Hybrids are quickly identified and sterilized to prevent further loss of genetic diversity amongst the wolf populations. The program also offers a domestic dog sterilization program and encourages better dog husbandry amongst local communities. Unfortunately, in the 90’s and again in 2003, a rabies outbreak contracted from domestic dogs nearly destroyed the wolf population. EWCP was able to stop the outbreak by vaccinating the wolves. They also vaccinate domestic dogs to prevent this from happening again. EWCP’s education program targets governments, local authorities, farmers, and school children living in wolf ranges and attempts to educate the people and raise awareness about the disappearing Afroalpine ecosystem and its wolves. EWCP celebrated the 12th annual “Wolf Day” with local communities just this last month, an initiative that seeks to increase awareness and foster positive attitudes toward this canid species. The Education Team visits local schools and distributes education materials to over 3,000 children each year.
Their education officers work with adults in the community, trying to spread the word about the problem with domestic dogs, and encouraging them to have their dogs sterilized. They also try to educate communities on the fact that the wolves are not known to prey on livestock, and thus livestock loss must not end in persecution of these animals. EWCP increases the capacity of Ethiopians in ecology and conservation by training and mentoring aspiring field biologists. To address the biggest challenge facing the Ethiopian Wolves, EWCP seeks to protect what little is left of the wolves’ Afroalpine ecosystem. They are actively working to expand the boundaries of the area’s National Parks, as many wolves are living outide the parks. Preventing further habitat loss from land converted for cereal crop production and livestock grazing is critical to the future of the Ethiopian Wolves. EWCP seeks to ensure a future for these magnificent animals with the help of present and future generations. Without Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, the wolves would have surely gone extinct by now.
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