Ethiopian Wolf

is a canid native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It is similar to the coyote in size and build, and is distinguished by its long and narrow skull, and its red and white fur.

Ethiopia produces wolves with manes, so diversely coloured, men say, that no hue is lacking. A characteristic of Ethiopian wolves is that they leap so high that they seem to have wings, going further than they would by running. They never attack men, however. In winter, they grow long hair; in summer, they are hairless. The Ethiopians call them theas.

Mounted specimen (1902), one of the first post-1835 specimens to reach Europe. The species was first scientifically described in 1835 by Eduard Rüppell, who provided a skull for the British Museum. European writers traveling in Ethiopia during the mid-19th century (then called Abyssinia) wrote that the animal's skin was never worn by natives, as it was popularly believed that the wearer would die should any wolf hairs enter an open wound, while Charles Darwin hypothesised that the species gave rise to greyhounds. Since then, it was scarcely heard of in Europe up until the early 20th century, when several skins were shipped to England by Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton during his travels in Abyssinia.

The Ethiopian wolf was recognised as requiring protection in 1938, and received it in 1974. The first in-depth studies on the species occurred in the 1980s, with the onset of the American sponsored Bale Mountains Research Project. Ethiopian wolf populations in the Bale Mountains National Park were negatively affected by the political unrest of the Ethiopian Civil War, though the critical state of the species was revealed during the early 1990s after a combination of shooting and a severe rabies epidemic decimated most packs studied in the Web Valley and Sanetti Plateau. In response, the IUCN reclassified the species from Endangered to Critically Endangered in 1994. The IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group advocated a three front strategy of education, wolf population monitoring, and rabies control in domestic dogs. The establishment of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme in Bale soon followed in 1995 by Oxford University, in conjunction with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA).

Soon after, a further wolf population was discovered in the Central Highlands. Elsewhere, information on Ethiopian wolves remained scarce; although first described in 1835 as living in the Simien Mountains, the paucity of information stemming from that area indicated that the species was likely declining there, while reports from the Gojjam plateau were a century out of date. Wolves were recorded in the Arsi Mountains since the early 20th century, and in the Bale Mountains in the late 1950s. The status of the Ethiopian wolf was re-assessed in the late 1990s, following improvements in travel conditions into northern Ethiopia. The surveys taken revealed local extinctions in Mount Choqa, Gojjam, and in every northern Afroalpine region where agriculture is well developed and human pressure acute. This revelation stressed the importance of the Bale Mountains wolf populations for the species' long-term survival, as well as the need to protect other surviving populations. A decade after the rabies outbreak, the Bale populations had fully recovered to pre-epizootic levels, prompting the species' downlisting to Endangered in 2004, though it still remains the world's rarest canid, and Africa's most endangered carnivore.

 

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