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27 October 2008


Vaccination can spare the lives of world's rarest wolves dying of rabies

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme

Press Release

27 October 2008


With less than 500 left, the endangered Ethiopian wolf teeters on the brink of extinction. Restricted to a handful of Ethiopian Mountains they are actively protected a dedicated team of Ethiopian and British conservationists.


Endangered Ethiopian wolves are particularly susceptible to rabies. In their stronghold in the Bale Mountains National Park they live in close contact with Oromo herders, and their dogs. While this coexistence is encouraging it places the wolves at great risk from the disease which is common in dogs.


Despite the efforts of the EWCP Veterinary Team who have vaccinated thousands of dogs in Bale's villages every year; the virus has raised its ugly head again and jumped into the wolf population. Thirteen wolves have died to date, and laboratory tests have confirmed our worst fears. If unchecked, rabies will kill over 2/3 of all wolves in Bale's Web Valley, and move on, wolves dying horrible deaths and numbers dwindling to perilous levels.


A team lead by Dr Claudio Sillero, Dr Graham Hemson, Dr Fekadu Shiferaw and Dr Karen Laurenson has devised a campaign to swiftly vaccinate wolves to prevent further infection. The intervention has been endorsed by the IUCN Canid Specialist Group and the Wildlife Health Specialist Group, and has been sanctioned by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA).


The first wolf was vaccinated on Monday 20th October and during the first week of the intervention we have made good inroads, covering four vital packs that connect the Web Valley population with other wolves in Bale. In 2003 a similar epidemic swept through, and a rapid response by the Ethiopian authorities and EWCP blocked the spread of the epidemic.  


This is not an easy task, with our Vet Team travelling on horse-back and camping  out in remote mountains above 12,000 feet with temperatures as low as -15°C, but by securing a cordon sanitaire of safely vaccinated wolf pack that will prevent the virus reaching other packs living further afield in the Bale Massif.  These preciously rare wolves can ill-afford it another massive die-off.


Dr Claudio Sillero

Bale Mountains, Ethiopia


EWCP is a WildCRU (www.wildcru.org), University of Oxford endeavour in partnership with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and Regional Governments. The Born Free Foundation (www.bornfree.org.uk) and Wildlife Conservation Network (www.wildnet.org) are the main donors that enable EWCP to protect the world's rarest canid.


For more information on Ethiopian wolf conservation go to www.ethiopianwolf.org

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