Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 43 – The Ethiopian Wolf


Ethiopian wolf and cub

Source: Born Free Photos

Description
Also known by a whole array of others names, including Abyssinian wolf, Simien fox and Simien jackal, this species has the dubious honour of being the rarest canid in the world. It is the only wolf species to be found in Africa, and can only be found in a handful of scattered areas in the Ethiopian Highlands.  For those who favour wolves, this is a species well worth getting to know.

Personally, I find these fox-like wolves rather beautiful.  With their long, elegant legs, slender bodies and necks, deep red fur (the females are the slightly paler ones) with contrasting black and white markings, they are undoubtedly striking, and most certainly very photogenic.  That gorgeous coat is very practical from the wolf’s point of view.  It has an insulated undercoat to protect it against the cold, in temperatures as low as minus -15 degrees centigrade.  For added warmth they hide their faces beneath their bushy tails when resting.  On average males weigh about 16 kilos and females just under 13. They are about the same size as a coyote.  Their front feet have five toes and their hind feet have four.  I have yet to find out why this is.

Ethiopian wolves tend to be mostly lone hunters.  Their prey is so small there is not enough to share.  They do, however, join forces when hunting larger species such as antelope.  As their prey is active during the day, so are they.   They are very much pack animals when it comes to other everyday living.  At dawn and dusk, they patrol the boundaries en masse;  and socialise and sleep as such too.  They sleep together, curled up in a ball, out in the open.  Male wolves rarely leave the pack, but females tend to wander off at two years of age in search of other opportunities.

This species is very vocal.  There are huffs, yelps, barks, growls, whines and group yip howls.  The howls can be heard over five kilometres away.

There is no social hierarchy amongst these wolves when it comes to mating.  Bit of a free-for-all really.  The mating season is between August and November.  After a gestation period of about sixty days, a litter of pups, numbering between two and six, will be born. Although the adults sleep in the open, when the cubs are born, the mother digs a hole, usually beneath a large rock or inside a crevice, to shelter her pups.  The pups are born with their eyes closed and have no teeth.  The den will be moved several times before the pups are ready to experience the outside world.

Habitat
Afroalpine grasslands and heathlands at altitudes above 3,000 metres.
Where
The Bale and Simien Mountain ranges of Ethiopia.
What they eat
Rodents make up nearly 96 percent of all their prey – big-headed mole rats,  black-clawed brush-furred rats and  grass rats.  Highland hare is sometimes on the menu too, along with birds, eggs, and occasionally carrion.
Threats
Habitat loss and fragmentation, over grazing of livestock, road construction, persecution, confrontation and hybridisation with domestic dogs, and diseases from domestic dogs (rabies, distemper and parvovirus).  Most of these threats are related to the Oromo people who live in close proximity to the wolves in the Bale Mountains National Park .
Status: Endangered
The Ethiopian wolf  (Canis simensis)  is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  Less than five hundred mature individuals are thought to remain in existence.  The species is protected from hunting under Ethiopian law.   A vaccination programme is in place to curb diseases, in particular rabies which decimated populations in both 1991 and 2003.   Steps are also being taken to prevent cross-breeding with domestic dogs.
The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme has undertaken:  [1]
• To assess, address and counteract threats to the survival of Ethiopian wolves.
• To secure the conservation of Afroalpine biodiversity and ecological processes.
• To strengthen Ethiopia’s environmental sector, particularly biodiversity conservation.

”The quicker we humans learn that saving open space and wildlife is critical to our welfare and quality of life, maybe we’ll start thinking of doing something about it.”
Jim Fowler

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12 thoughts on “Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 43 – The Ethiopian Wolf

  1. Good post, but your classifying them as the only “wolf” species in Africa is inaccurate. The gray wolf also lives in Africa (Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia) and the golden jackal could be argued to be a species of wolf, considering it is genetically closer to the gray wolf than the Ethiopian wolf is.

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