Red-hot Poker flowers smolder yellow and red like fiery embers. An isolated thunderstorm drifts across a distant ridgeline. Windswept, thick-stalked Giant Lobelia plants (also known as Tree Lobelias) defy the gusting currents that whip across the plateau. Alpine bushes swirl like the undulating texture of rough seas.
It’s windy on the Roof of Africa at over 4,000 meters above sea level. At first glance, the environment appears barren, but looks can be deceiving: Measured in biomass, the Afromontane highlands of the Sanetti Plateau in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains National Park are every bit as productive as savannah grasslands found elsewhere in Africa. Rodent species like the Giant Molerat and Grass Rats thrive below ground, forming the foundation of a complex food chain.
Somewhere in this churning, windblown carpet of low vegetation and weathered rock, the world’s rarest canid, Africa’s most threatened carnivore, searches for a meal hiding just beneath the surface: the Ethiopian Wolf.
Rufous and earthen with a white underside, the Ethiopian Wolf cruises low between shrubs and boulders in search of prey. Active during the day, the wolves can often be observed from the high-elevation road that stretches across the Sanetti Plateau. The wolf range has continued to shrink in the last 30 years and today, this Afroalpine top predator numbers some 500 individuals. Habitat loss alone, however, is not the chief threat: The arrival of livestock and with them domestic dogs, which transmit viruses such as rabies and canine distemper virus, have had a devastating effect on the population. That they still survive here in this fragile environment is thanks to the efforts of Prof. Sillero, his wife and project partner Dr. Jorgelina Marino, and the dedicated EWCP conservation team .
Those with a desire to see the wolf in its magnificent natural environment can play an important role in the survival of the Ethiopian Wolf by helping to create an economic incentive to protect their fragile habitat.
Make contributing to the survival of the Ethiopian Wolf a part of your trip planning and preparation!
- Focus on local initiatives to ensure that the money you spend stays in local communities. Consider horseback riding in Bale Mountains or visit the Guassa Community Conservation
Area for a truly authentic community-based tourism enterprise.
- Consider integrating a contribution to the survival of the Ethiopian Wolf into your travel budget by donating before you head to Ethiopia. Donations can be made to the Wildlife Conservation Network (USA), the Born Free Foundation (UK), or the IUCN Canid Specialist Group via www.ethiopianwolf.org
The endemic Ethiopian Wolf, is a specialist predator found only in the highlands of Ethiopia. Largely a diurnal, solo hunter, it preys upon small mammals such as Grass Rats, the Giant Molerat, Starkii Hare and Rock Hyrax before returning to its pack in the evening to socialize. Ethiopian Wolves are restricted to just six isolated highland areas and have a world total population of approximately 500 adult animals. There are no Ethiopian Wolves kept in captivity. They are threatened by rapidly expanding crop farming and cattle grazing as well as diseases such as rabies and the canine distemper virus, that are transmitted by domestic dogs.
The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) was founded in 1995. Its mission is to protect and ensure the future of one of the world’s rarest canid species and most threatened African carnivore by protecting the population in the Bale Mountains and other threatened, smaller populations living in suitable mountain ranges on either side of the Great Rift Valley habitat. Protecting the wolves safeguards the future of endemic Afroalpine species while protecting natural resources vital to human livelihoods.