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Ethiopian wolf

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Ethiopian wolf
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Scientific Classification
Ethiopian Wolf

Canis simensis

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Ethiopian Wolf in its natural enviornment

The Ethiopian Wolf is a mammal that lives in Ethiopia. It is the rarest canid in the world and the only wolf within all of Africa. It is also known by other names including: Abessinische Wolf, Abyssinian Wolf, Arouaye, Ethiopian Jackal or Wolf, Red Jackal or Fox and many more. [1].

Body Design

Ethiopian Wolf in its habitat at Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

The Ethiopian Wolf has been compared in appearance to jackals, coyotes and foxes, and for quite a while was believed to be within one of these families (most like the coyote because of size and structure). However after analyzing their mitochondrial DNA, they found that they are most closely related to the Grey Wolf. [2]

They are a medium sized canine. They have long, thin legs, long muzzles and have white markings on their muzzles, throat, chest, tail and legs. Their fur coat color is orange-brown or red. Their gums and area around mouth is all black. Their ears are pointed and go forward. Their front feet have five toes while their back feet have four toes. Some distinctive facial markings are white curve under eyes and a spot on their cheeks. Their white tale has a black stripe running down it. [3]

Males are around 20% larger than females. Males are around 33-42 pounds and females are around 21-31 pounds. Females are generally paler in coloring than males. Besides separate gentiles this are the only significant differences in appearance. [4]

Their skull has a flat profile and a low, thick cranium. Their teeth are small and widely spaced. They have sharp, pointed canines (teeth) that are around 19mm long (.748 inches). The carnassials (teeth often found in canines) are small. The length of the skull is about 30% of the skull and the facial area is around 58% of the length of the skull. [5]

They are mammals so they have the main characteristics of one: they are warm blooded, have fur, they are vertebrates, they have lungs to breath, and they produce milk to feed their young, and are born live. [6]

Life Cycle

Within an Ethiopian wolf pack only the dominant female breeds. However it is common for males from a different pack to mate with the dominant female. This accounts for 70% of the matings, so the idea that only the dominant male of that pack mates with the dominant female is a misconception. These matings occur generally between August and November, and most often the female has a two week window for conception[7].

The female is able to reproduce one litter a year. The litter can vary between two to six pups. The period of birth is within the range of October to December. The pups once born go through three main stages of development. The first is the early nesting period. This generally lasts from its first week to its fourth, and at this time they are completely dependent upon milk from one of the females (not only from their mother). The second stage lasts from its fifth week to its tenth. This is where their diet does not completely rely upon milk but have the added substance of regurgitated food from other pack members. The third stage is lasts from the tenth week to the sixth month of a pup’s life. This is where they start to become almost completely dependent upon solid food which is still provided to them by the adults of the pack. Adults have been recorded to feed the pups up to a year. Juvenile wolves will begin hunting with other pack members as early as sixth months old. Juveniles (one year or older) have between eighty to ninety percent of an adult’s body mass. They become full adults around the age of two years. At this point both the males and the females become sexually mature[8].

An Ethiopian wolf can live between three to eight years. Its average life span is four and a half years[9].


Ethiopian Wolf

The Ethiopian Wolf lives at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. Their habitat ranges in Ethiopia across the Bale Mountains (over half the population dwells here), and the Arsi Mountains south east of the Rift Valley. They also reside North of the Rift Valley in the Simien Mountains, North and South Wollo Highlands, Mount Guna and Menz. [10] The vegetation in their habitat consists of various plants such as dwarf scrub and afro- alpine herbaceous. There are also barren peaks and ericaceous heath lands. The population is most dense in areas covered with a vegetation of afro-alpine plants.[11].

The majority of the Ethiopian Wolf’s diet is rodents and other small mammals (Giant Molerats, rats, mice, Starck’s hare, and rock hyrax). They also eat birds and insects. There have been reports of cattle/livestock being attacked and consumed. They generally hunt alone because the prey is small and can only supply nutrition for one (or two). They are also animals (prey) that don’t need large packs to hunt them down. [12] Ethiopian Wolf lives in packs of 3 to 12 wolves. They are most active during the day (diurnal). Ethiopian wolves are territorial, and mark their territory (urinating at certain locations to mark their scent) and have pack members patrol its borders to fend off intruders. [13] At night they rest together in the open and/or for patrol duty. There is not much nocturnal activity (activity at night), however it is more common where the human population problem is severe.[14] It has no natural predators except the pups which are occasionally taken by hyenas or eagles.[15]

Threats and Reasons for Decline

Loss of environment (habitat) is one of the main problems for the Ethiopian wolf. Much of its habitat has been made into farmland (around 60% of all land 10,000 feet or above have been made into farmlands). Overgrazing of cattle/livestock, commercial sheep farms and roads result in further habitat loss. Also domestic dogs have been a large threat to the Ethiopian Wolf. Hybridization (mating between domestic dogs and wolves resulting in breeding hybrids) and competition for food are two issues. However the main threat the wolf has is retaining rabies from the dogs.[16]. Rabies is the most common and dangerous disease for the Ethiopian Wolf and is the main reason for many of their declines in population and increases in mortality rate (rate of death). Other reasons are starvation, being run over by vehicles and people shooting them to death.[17]

Currently the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme is working to restore the population and the habitat of the Ethiopian wolf. They have workers working to restore the habitat, give vaccines to domestic dogs and Ethiopian Wolves, and avoiding conflicts between residents and the wolves. [18]