Canis simensis: A wolf in fox’s clothing
Ethiopian wolves may not look like the first animals you think when you hear the word wolf, but these rare canids are as much a wolf as any other. One of previously four Canis species in Africa (now just two following the recent reclassification of black-backed and side-stripped jackals), they are readily distinguishable from jackals by their larger size, relatively longer legs, distinctive reddish coat and white markings. Although often called the Simien fox or red fox (ky kebero in Amharic, Jeedala Faarda in Oromic), DNA phylogenetic analysis has revealed that the Ethiopian wolf is more closely related to the grey wolf and the coyote than to any African canid. Most likely, the Ethiopian wolf evolved from a grey wolf-like ancestor that crossed to northern Africa via land bridges from Eurasia as recently as 100,000 years ago, when Afroalpine habitats in Ethiopia covered vast extensions.
Ethiopia has no shortage of charismatic animals. From the small and strange giant headed mole rats to the elegant mountain nyala, the highlands are home to many captivating mammals. Among the more elusive is the leopard – but thanks to our camera traps, we still have the chance to “spot” them.
By Fekadu Lema
The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) sponsored the launch of the extension to Borena Sayint Worehimeno National Park (BSWNP) in Amhara on 16 March 2019. The opening of the park was celebrated by a workshop for over 70 stakeholders, park experts, supporters and representatives from federal to woreda (local community) level from 18 institutions. The workshop included question and answer sessions for the stakeholders, as well as a speech by EWCP’s Girma Eshete highlighting the importance of the park for wolves and other wildlife.
An exciting discovery was recently made in the Bale Mountains, home to the largest Ethiopian wolf population.
An international team of researchers, supported by EWCP, visited the Fincha Habera rock shelter at the edge of the Web Valley, where their excavations revealed evidence of human occupation dating as far back as 47,000 years ago! This makes their finding the world’s oldest occupation of a residential site at high elevation, in this case an astonishing 3,469m above sea level.
The Amhara region encompasses most of Ethiopia’s highlands north and west of the Rift Valley. Here you can find the source of the Blue Nile, Lake Tana, and the breath-taking Simien Mountains, but also a less well-known Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area (MGCCA). This highland plateau is diverse in wildlife and home to many animals found only in Ethiopia, such as the Ethiopian wolf, the gelada baboon, and several rodent species.
The Ethiopian wolf is a charismatic endemic species, only found high in the mountains of Ethiopia above 3000m. These highlands are known as the “Water Towers of Africa” and for good reason; the sources of many rivers can be found here, supplying water to both the swathes of native grassland, swamps and peatbogs that form the Afroalpine ecosystem and the ever-expanding landscape of crops and grazing livestock in the lowlands below.