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.
Now confined to high mountains on either side of Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, the wolves exist on islands in the air, surrounded by a sea of agriculture and people. Living up on the Roof of Africa, more than 3,400 metres above sea level where they have become highly specialised to hunt the abundant highland rodents, less than 500 of this unique animal remain. Their islands are shrinking. Threatened by disease and habitat loss, Ethiopian wolves desperately need our help.
This is why EWCP exists. We are a team of dedicated conservationists, scientists, vets and community members, working together to save Ethiopian wolves and their Afroalpine home.
Here is a special International Wolf Day message from EWCP staff: