Born Free is delighted to announce that, following a decade of intensive research, field trials and awareness work, the first ever oral vaccination campaign was implemented in the Bale mountains to pre-empt outbreaks of rabies amongst the world’s most endangered canids - the Ethiopian wolves.
Led by the University of Oxford’s Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) and funded by Born Free, this new form of vaccination - using the SAG2 vaccine - will now be utilised for all six extant wolf populations to enhance their chance of survival.
There are fewer than 500 Ethiopian wolves left in the world and they all live in the highlands of Ethiopia. Whilst they are threatened by loss of habitat to subsistence agriculture, the biggest threat to their numbers is from lethal diseases carried by domestic dogs such as rabies and canine distemper.
Professor Claudio Sillero, Chief Scientist for Born Free and EWCP’s Founder, said: “30 years ago, I witnessed an outbreak of rabies which killed the majority of the wolves I had followed closely for my doctoral studies. We have learnt much about these wolves and their Afroalpine homes since. By the time we detect rabies in a wolf population, many of the animals are already fatally infected and doomed. We now know that pre-emptive vaccination can save many wolves from a horrible death, and help to keep small and isolated populations outside the vortex of extinction.”
Sillero added: “Long-term programmes and targeted research are the cornerstones of biological conservation. Today, thanks to funding from Born Free and the generosity of companies such as Virbac, who donated 3,000 SAG2 oral vaccines to our programme, we are prepared to implement a strategic vaccination campaign that will greatly reduce the chances of this rare species extinct. I wholeheartedly celebrate the team’s achievement and encourage other practitioners to embrace this preventive approach as part of their conservation tool kit. We are in a world that demands closer control of pathogens shared by wildlife, domestic animals and humans.”