Ethiopian Wolf Conservation
Dear Friends of Wildlife
I’m absolutely freezing! It is hard to believe that in Africa you would need to wear three layers inside your sleeping bag but at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, high up in the Bale Mountains at the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Research Centre, that is exactly what you need – and hot soup helps too!
I am here with Professor Claudio Sillero, Born Free’s Head of Conservation, Dr Zelealem Tefera, Born Free’s Country Manager in Ethiopia, together with Alo and the rest of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project team, looking for the world’s most endangered wolf.
They are only found at 10,000 feet above sea level; they are only found in Ethiopia; they are only found in the wild; and there are none in captivity.
This elegant red and white wolf, a specialist hunter, which feeds mainly on rodents (and, in particular, the one kilogram giant mole rat) is incredibly rare and beautiful. Against the dramatic skyline, as scudding clouds, in turn, shift the landscape from blazing sun to almost purple grey, the Ethiopian wolf stands out. They hunt alone but live together, taking enormous care looking after and raising their precious pups. Over 12 months ago, a rabies outbreak (contracted from dogs living in outlying communities) decimated the population but this year’s pups are numerous and wolves are on the increase again.
Born Free has been supporting this incredible conservation work for nearly 20 years and, together with Oxford University, the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN), we have managed to give this most unusual predator a fighting chance.
I reflected as I walked with Alo, the Head of the Wolf Monitoring Team, across the stark but beautiful landscape, how strange it is that there are four times as many giant pandas in the world – recipients of millions of column inches and tens of millions of dollars – and yet the Ethiopian wolf barely gets a look in. It is even more bizarre to think that while almost none of us will see an Ethiopian wolf in the wild, we have its ‘relative’ in millions of households across the UK. The companionship of domestic dogs which bring much joy into our lives would not exist were it not for wolves and so, as we fight to save this species and its fragile habitat, I reach out to all dog owners, asking them to show some respect and to lend their support to the ancestors of the animal that sits by the fire, fetches the ball and pulls us along full of joy and glee when we shout ‘walkies’.
So when you next look at your dog, remember the Ethiopian wolf and help us at Born Free to give the species a long-term future.