Many of you will be aware that habitat loss has confined Ethiopian wolves to the mountain tops, leaving small populations threatened by lethal viruses teetering on the edge of extinction. Fortunately for the wolves, we are out in force throughout their range, monitoring and vaccinating packs and working with communities to protect their unique habitats. Through many years of work, we have been able to pinpoint the key threats that need addressing, and identify new ones as they emerge.
Not long ago, it would take a one or two full days walking, riding horses or mules in the easier stretches, to reach these isolated wolf populations. Today, you will find at least one road cutting across wolf habitats in every mountain range.
In the high, inaccessible mountains, each road is a vital link between isolated communities living in Ethiopia’s highlands and these routes are only getting busier. Despite making our work easier, these roads are also creating a new and persistent threat. Regularly traversed by buses and trucks, often travelling at high speed and throughout the night, their increasing traffic creates a much greater risk to wildlife of being hit. Last April, a dead wolf was found at the roadside in the Bale Mountains showing signs of being struck by a passing vehicle. We were saddened to discover this loss - with such a small population, every wolf counts.
Over the past few years, road kills have taken the lives of several wolves across Ethiopia. Intervention is needed to minimise the threat of the roads to wildlife, which is where Living with Wolves comes in.
EWCP has installed road signs in the mountains of Bale, Arsi and South Wollo urging drivers to take care while passing through wolf territory and raising awareness of wildlife and local fire risks. In the last few years more than 16 signs have gone up along Afroalpine roads, but exposure to the harsh elements means that eventual maintenance and costly replacement will be necessary – not to mention expansion to more key wolf ranges! One of our newest projects, Living with Wolves aims to foster human coexistence with Ethiopian wolves through outreach and collaboration to promote behavioural changes, and represents our holistic approach to building a healthy future for people and wolves.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war have delayed the launch of our diverse campaign, but we have not lost our motivation and are excited to drive forward with this work, adding another pillar to the long-term success of Ethiopian wolf conservation. In time, we hope to also address the issue of littering by drivers (and the potential risks to wildlife) and aspire to reduce pressure on the dens of breeding wolves through education for shepherds and tour guides.
You can help us succeed in this next chapter of our work conserving Africa’s most endangered carnivore – go to ethiopianwolf.org/donate to find the ways you can support EWCP and protect Ethiopian wolves.