Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme

Robe, Ethiopia

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme

Robe, Ethiopia
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Mekonnen A.,Addis Ababa Institute of Technology | Bekele A.,Addis Ababa Institute of Technology | Hemson G.,Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme | Teshome E.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Atickem A.,University of Oslo
ORYX | Year: 2010

The Bale monkey Chlorocebus djamdjamensis is a little-known primate endemic to the south-eastern highlands of Ethiopia. From August 2007 to May 2008 we surveyed to determine the species' habitat preferences and population size in the Odobullu Forest and its range across the Bale Mountains. In Odobullu Forest a total of 136 transects of 1.8-3.0 km were surveyed over a total distance of 280 km. Bale monkey groups were encountered only in bamboo forest, suggesting that the species is a bamboo forest specialist. The density and population size of the Bale monkey in the bamboo forest of Odobullu Forest were estimated to be 121-141 km-2 and 1,718-2,002, respectively. At a larger scale, we assessed the distribution of the Bale monkey in 40% of the bamboo forest across the Bale Mountains within the species altitudinal range of 2,400-3,250 m. We identified the areas to be surveyed using a 200 m digital elevation model and a 10-m resolution satellite image. We found the Bale monkey in five areas, three of which are previously unrecorded locations for the species. The Bale monkey is now categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, partly based on the results of our surveys. Although extensive, our surveys did not cover all of the species potential habitat and further surveys are required across all of the bamboo forest of the Bale Mountains and Sidamo region (the western extension of the Bale Mountains). © 2010 Fauna & Flora International.

Mekonnen A.,Addis Ababa Institute of Technology | Bekele A.,Addis Ababa Institute of Technology | Fashing P.J.,California State University, Fullerton | Hemson G.,Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme | Atickem A.,University of Oslo
International Journal of Primatology | Year: 2010

Bale monkeys (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) are little-known primates endemic to the forests of the Bale Massif and Hagere Selam regions of Ethiopia. From August 2007 to May 2008, we conducted the first ever study of the species' behavior and ecology, focusing in particular on its diet, activity patterns, and ranging ecology in the Odobullu Forest. We studied 2 neighboring groups (group A: 55-60 members; group B: 46-50 members) and conducted behavioral scan samples on the first 2-5 individuals sighted at 15-min intervals. Feeding accounted for 65.7% of the activity budget, followed by moving (14.4%), resting (10.7%), social (7.1%), and other behaviors (2.4%). Overall diet during the study was dominated by young leaves (80.2%), though subjects also ate fruits (9.6%), flowers (3.1%), animal prey (2.3%), shoots (1.5%), stems (1.4%), mature leaves (1.1%), and roots (0.9%). Bale monkeys consumed only 11 plant species; of these, the top 5 species accounted for 94.3% of their diet. The top food item, bamboo (Arundinaria alpina), was responsible for a remarkable 76.7% of their diet, with most (95.2%) of the bamboo consumption consisting of young leaves. Mean daily path length for the study groups was 928 m and mean (100% minimum convex polygon) home range size was 15.2 ha. Though we are cautious in drawing conclusions from only 2 groups, the larger group traveled further per day and occupied a larger home range, patterns suggesting scramble competition may be occurring in Bale monkey groups at Odobullu. The dietary specialization of Bale monkeys on bamboo makes them unique among Chlorocebus spp. and suggests an intriguing ecological convergence with the golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti) of Uganda and bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur spp.) of Madagascar. Their narrow ecological niche, limited geographic distribution, and bamboo harvesting by local people for commercial purposes place Bale monkeys at risk of extinction. To ensure the long-term survival of Bale monkeys, appropriate management action should be taken to conserve the species and the bamboo forests upon which it depends. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010.

Eshete G.,Leiden University | Tesfay G.,Mekelle University | Bauer H.,University of Oxford | Ashenafi Z.T.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | And 3 more authors.
Environmental Management | Year: 2015

People who perceive economic benefits and enjoy unrestricted access to natural resources tend to support ecosystem conservation efforts. Our study explores whether this remains true in remnant patches of Afroalpine ecosystem in North Ethiopia, where communal land provides valuable natural resources for the local communities and also sustain small populations of the endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). Questionnaires were designed to assess ecological and socio-economic characteristics of the livelihoods of the Amhara people living in Mount Abune Yosef and their attitudes toward Afroalpine and Ethiopian wolf conservation. Of the 120 households interviewed, selected randomly from across eight villages, 80 % benefited from natural resources by grazing their livestock and harvesting firewood and grasses. The majority (90 %) also suffered from livestock predation by Ethiopian wolves and common jackals (Canis aureus) and crop raiding by geladas (Theropithecus gelada), birds, and rodents, yet more than half reported a positive attitudes toward Ethiopian wolves (66 %). People with positive attitudes tended to live close to the communal land, to own more livestock, and to be unaffected by conflict. Many also recognized the need to protect the Afroalpine habitats of Abune Yosef (71 %), and this attitude predominated among the literate, households that owned land, had smaller herds and were further away. We discussed how people’s attitudes were modulated by human-wildlife conflicts and by the benefits derived from the access to natural resources in communal land, and the implications for the conservation of Afroalpine ecosystem and the flagship Ethiopian wolf. © 2015, The Author(s).

Gordon C.H.,Zoological Society of London | Gordon C.H.,University of Oxford | Banyard A.C.,Animal and Plant Health Agency | Hussein A.,Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme | And 8 more authors.
Emerging Infectious Diseases | Year: 2015

The Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) is the world’s rarest canid; ≈500 wolves remain. The largest population is found within the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) in southeastern Ethiopia, where conservation efforts have demonstrated the negative effect of rabies virus on wolf populations. We describe previously unreported infections with canine distemper virus (CDV) among these wolves during 2005–2006 and 2010. Death rates ranged from 43% to 68% in affected subpopulations and were higher for subadult than adult wolves (83%–87% vs. 34%–39%). The 2010 CDV outbreak started 20 months after a rabies outbreak, before the population had fully recovered, and led to the eradication of several focal packs in BMNP’s Web Valley. The combined effect of rabies and CDV increases the chance of pack extinction, exacerbating the typically slow recovery of wolf populations, and represents a key extinction threat to populations of this highly endangered carnivore. © 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All rights reserved.

Kennedy L.J.,University of Manchester | Randall D.A.,Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme | Randall D.A.,University of Oxford | Knobel D.,University of Edinburgh | And 9 more authors.
Tissue Antigens | Year: 2011

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) influences immune response to infection and vaccination. In most species, MHC genes are highly polymorphic, but few wild canid populations have been investigated. In Ethiopian wolves, we identified four DLA (dog leucocyte antigen)-DRB1, two DLA-DQA1 and five DQB1 alleles. Ethiopian wolves, the world's rarest canids with fewer than 500 animals worldwide, are further endangered and threatened by rabies. Major rabies outbreaks in the Bale Mountains of southern Ethiopia (where over half of the Ethiopian wolf population is located) have killed over 75% of wolves in the affected sub-populations. In 2004, following a rabies outbreak, 77 wolves were vaccinated, and 19 were subsequently recaptured to monitor the effectiveness of the intervention. Pre- and post-vaccination rabies antibody titres were available for 18 animals, and all of the animals sero-converted after vaccination. We compared the haplotype frequencies of this group of 18 with the post-vaccination antibody titre, and showed that one haplotype was associated with a lower response (uncorrected P < 0.03). In general, Ethiopian wolves probably have an adequate amount of MHC variation to ensure the survival of the species. However, we sampled only the largest Ethiopian wolf population in Bale, and did not take the smaller populations further north into consideration. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Van Kesteren F.,University of Oxford | Van Kesteren F.,University of Pretoria | Sillero-Zubiri C.,University of Oxford | Millar R.,University of Pretoria | And 4 more authors.
General and Comparative Endocrinology | Year: 2012

Ethiopian wolves, Canis simensis, live in large multi-male family packs, where males are philopatric and do not disperse. Within a pack, mating and breeding is largely monopolized by the dominant male and female, although extra-pack copulations are common, and subordinate males may sire pups in neighboring packs. Regardless of paternity, all males in a pack help rear the pups. We non-invasively studied patterns in fecal testosterone and glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations using radioimmunoassays of fecal samples collected from nine wild male Ethiopian wolves between August 2007 and February 2008. We tested the predictions of the Challenge Hypothesis, namely that fecal testosterone metabolite concentrations would be higher during the annual mating season, which is the portion of the reproductive cycle when mating and increased aggression typically occur, and lower when there were pups in the pack for which to care. Contrary to the predictions of the Challenge Hypothesis, we did not detect patterns in fecal testosterone metabolite concentrations associated with reproductive stage during our study period. Similarly, we found no patterns associated with reproductive stage in male fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations. Dominant males had higher average fecal testosterone and glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations than did subordinates, which may be related to higher rates of aggression and mate guarding in dominant males of group-living canids, a pattern also reported in African wild dogs, Lycaon pictus. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.

News Article | August 31, 2016

The trials, undertaken by the University of Oxford, the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, are the first ever conducted in wild populations of an endangered carnivore. Researchers from Ethiopia and the UK tested various types of baits and ways to deliver the vaccine, trialling SAG2 in three wolf packs. Of 21 wolves trapped after vaccinations, 14 were positive for a biomarker indicating that the animal had ingested the bait; of these, half showed antibody titres in blood above the universally recognised threshold, and 86% had levels considered sufficient to provide protective immunity to wildlife. Wolves were closely monitored after the vaccination, and all but one of the wolves vaccinated were alive 14 months later (higher than average survival). Oral vaccination proved to be the answer to controlling rabies in wild populations of red foxes and northern raccoons in Europe and North America, but the approach has never been tested in wild populations of endangered carnivores such as Ethiopian wolves and African wild dogs, which are at risk of extinction because of outbreaks of infectious diseases. Rabies is a virus that kills people, domestic livestock and wild animals worldwide, and is particularly prevalent in the highlands of Ethiopia, where rabies recurrently jumps from domestic dogs into their wild relatives, the charismatic Ethiopian wolves. With fewer than 500 adult wolves left in half a dozen mountain ranges, and no captive populations, Ethiopian wolves are much rarer than giant pandas and unlikely to sustain the immediate and present threats rising from growing numbers of dogs and people living in and around their mountain enclaves. But with wolves living in a sea of domestic dogs, in shrinking habitat islands, there is no time left to waste. Oral vaccination offers a more cost-efficient, safe and proactive approach to protect Ethiopian wolves and other threatened canids from rabies. Lead author Professor Claudio Sillero-Zubiri, of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, said: 'We now have a safe vaccine, a suitable bait, an efficient delivery method, and trained monitoring teams in place - all crucial steps which open up the possibility for scaling up the oral vaccination and protecting the wolf populations at risk, before disease strikes again.' Head wolf monitor Alo Hussein, of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP), said: 'In spite of investing in excess of US$30,000 a year vaccinating thousands of domestic dogs, it has been impossible to attain a level of dog vaccinations that would remove the risk of wolves getting infected, due to the large and dynamic dog population in the Bale Mountains.' Professor Tony Fooks, of the Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, said: 'These preliminary results using an oral vaccination strategy to protect Ethiopian wolves against rabies are encouraging and provide proof-of-principle for the use of this approach in wild canids.' Dr Fekede Regassa, of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, said: 'Since 1990, four major rabies outbreaks led each time to the crash of the Bale Mountains wolf population, the world's largest, typically killing 50-75% of the subpopulation affected. EWCP vaccinates wolves reactively whenever a rabies outbreak is confirmed, contributing to contain the disease, but only after many wolves die - by the time rabies is detected, the virus is well established, and as wolves are highly social, it spreads fast.' More information: Claudio Sillero-Zubiri et al, Feasibility and efficacy of oral rabies vaccine SAG2 in endangered Ethiopian wolves, Vaccine (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.08.021

Atickem A.,Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme | Atickem A.,Addis Ababa Institute of Technology | Bekele A.,Addis Ababa Institute of Technology | Williams S.D.,Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme
African Journal of Ecology | Year: 2010

The potential effects of the domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) on the Endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) through exploitative and interference competition were studied in the Web Valley of Bale Mountains national park between November 2001 and February 2003. All dogs were owned in the study area and no feral dogs were reported or observed during the research period. The diet of domestic dogs was dominated by barley husks and human faeces which contributed 45% and 20.7% of the total 382 meals observed during focal watch observations. Analysis of dog faeces provided similar results with barley husks, human faeces and animal carcasses occurring in 86.8%, 21.4% and 19.4% of the 1200 faecal samples analysed. Both focal watch and faecal analyses revealed that rodents contributed only a very small proportion of the diet of dogs accounting for only 4.2% of the focal watch and 2.8% of the faecal analysis of roaming dogs. As Ethiopian wolves fed almost exclusively on rodent year round, no significant exploitative competition between dogs and wolves were assessed. Only small proportion of the domestic dogs roamed in the Ethiopian wolf range and interference competition did not appear to be a serious threat for the Ethiopian wolf. © 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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