Going digital - EWCP’s fight against rabies, from the highlands of Ethiopia to your browser

The emergency response to contain rabies in the Bale Mountains put our newly-devised digital monitoring system, funded by the J.R.S. Biodiversity Foundation, to its greatest test so far.

Since the first wolf carcass was found in the Bale Mountains in July 2014, EWCP has worked frantically to contain the spread of rabies. With permission from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, we set up an Emergency Response Team with the Bale Mountains National Park which, battling wet and blustery weather at 4,100 m., started capturing and vaccinating wolves in the Sanetti Plateau in August 2014.

Teams of wolf monitors with Nexus tablets and the latest version of the EWCP app, walked the valleys and meadows of Bale looking for carcasses and sick wolves, and closely observing the packs already vaccinated. The data they collected was straight away continuously processed, and our emergency intervention adapted accordingly.

People away from the field, processing permits, sending samples to labs and contacting donors to support the emergency intervention, also benefited by the rapid turnover of information. The information was displayed online in the form of interactive maps in our new section: the Wolf Mapper. The Wolf Mapper transports you to the remote Highlands of Ethiopia to discover the life of the wolves and the work of EWCP to protect them from extinction. During this emergency we produced maps that illustrate the distribution of free roaming dogs and dog vaccinations campaigns; and the spread of rabies, from its epicenter in the Sanetti Plateau to the more remote Morabawa population, where the last wolf vaccinations were conducted in March 2015.

Some components of the digital data cycle still require some fine-tuning, and there are challenges that will not disappear soon -such as an unreliable internet connection, but we have made much progress. Having data readily available for analyses and display during the current disease outbreak, not only made our work easier but also enabled supporters and partners to keep tabs on us, making them feel part of the large EWCP family.