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09 March 2010

 

Fun and games (and no rain) at the 12th annual Wolf Day in Dinsho.


Anne-Marie Stewart

On Sunday the 7th of March, we held our 12th Wolf Day in Dinsho, and all anyone could think about was, “Please let the rain hold off!”

For the past two weeks it hasn’t stopped raining here – the normally tranquil streams have turned into raging rivers that are in danger of breaking their banks, while the roads and dirt tracks in town are slippery mud slides that threaten to send you sliding headlong into a puddle. So understandably we were all concerned that Wolf Day could turn into a mud bath!

However, the weather, for once, was on our side, and although the rain clouds gathered ominously over the mountains, in Dinsho we were treated to patches of blue sky and sunshine.

The day opened with a blessing from the village elders, and then the Bale Beauty Nature Club presented us with a cake they had baked, marking the 12th Wolf Day for EWCP (the cake didn’t last very long, as the invited guests and dignitaries were keen to sample the best of Bale baking!).

Numerous sports matches were held during the day, with the EWCP Wolf team facing the Dinsho Club in the football finals. Unfortunately EWCP went down one-nil, but all the players did very well while having to deal with a horribly sodden pitch. Two volleyball matches, the final of the primary school football league, and the 5000m race concluded the sporting part of the day. We were also treated to various plays and singing competitions, as well as an art display from the Dinsho Primary School. A pot-smashing game and a raffle brought the proceedings for the day to a close, and all the EWCP staff breathed a sigh of relief. Another successful Wolf Day, the rain stayed away, and the community came together once again to celebrate the Ethiopian wolf and the afroalpine. A big thank you to all the EWCP staff who ensured that the day ran smoothly.

Drama on Wolf Day



A very soggy field


2nd place trophy for the Wolf Team

10 November 2009

 

Field trip to northern Ethiopia


By Anne-Marie Stewart & Chris Gordon


We are spoilt in Bale, not only with wolf sightings, but with the relative lack of steep mountains! This was our impression after returning from our first field trip to the north of Ethiopia, two weeks ascending mountains and trekking through wheat fields, visiting the Ethiopian wolf populations in these areas. EWCP works with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) to monitor the wolves here and to educate school children and community members about the importance and benefits of Afroalpine conservation.
Our team spent five days camped in Abuna Yoseph, an area in North Wollo where we estimate there to be a population of approximately 20 wolves, and then a further five days in the Simien Mountains National Park, where the third largest population of Ethiopian wolves is found. Abuna Yoseph does not lie within a protected area, and the effects of rapid human expansion can be all too easily seen. Cattle and goats graze high into the Afroalpine, and we encountered barley fields at over 4,000m asl! However the wolves do persist in these areas, and we were lucky enough to have five sightings of adult wolves during our stay. We also had the chance to train two FZS para-ecologists – members of the local community who will help us to collect valuable environmental data.
The local people we met in Abuna Yoseph expressed their desire to see the wolves survive, and the challenge for us lies in reconciling the needs of a growing human population in the Afroalpine, with the increasingly urgent need to conserve these areas.

In Simien we were confronted with a similar scenario, with a growing human presence and agriculture expansion evident both within and surrounding the Park. However, there are many areas of good wolf habitat and we did manage to spot three adult wolves while monitoring in the Park, as well as various other fascinating endemic species, such as the walia ibex and the gelada baboon. The local people living within the Park were very positive about the wolves, realizing their value and the potential benefits they could bring as a tourist attraction.

07 October 2009

 

Rabies Day 2009 in Dinsho


















We are against rabies! Dhukkuba saree ni balaaleffanna!” A small band of demonstrators is marching towards us, placards waving, fists raised. It’s not quite a G8 protest, but this group is equally fervent about their cause. Rabies must be eradicated in their town!



It’s September 28th, Rabies Day 2009, and the Dinsho Primary School, situated on the boundary of the Bale Mountains National Park, has organised a demonstration to show their commitment to stamping out rabies in the area in order to protect the endangered Ethiopian wolf. The children, ranging in age from eight to 15 years old, made their own posters and banners highlighting the cause, and after marching through the town chanting their slogans, ended up in the grounds of the school where a presentation had been organised by some of the other pupils. This included a poetry reading by one of the students, as well as a play written and acted out by three pupils to highlight the dangers of rabies within the community and the threat the disease poses to the Ethiopian wolves.



















Rabies is transmitted by domestic dogs from the villages surrounding and within the National Park, and is fatal to the wolves. Outbreaks have occurred in 2003, 2008 and most recently in May 2009, and have caused significant losses to the wolf population in the Bale Mountains. The Rabies Day event, coordinated by the EWCP education officer, was attended by local community administrators and elders, as well as other EWCP staff and school pupils. Not even a sudden downpour could dampen the enthusiasm of the children, and they made sure that everyone understood their message: “Save the Ethiopian wolf! Jeedala fardaa haa kunuunsinu!


Anne-Marie Stewart

EWCP Field director


10 September 2009

 

After the outbreak: Post–intervention monitoring


Following on from the recent Ethiopian wolf vaccinations during May and June, life has settled down somewhat in the Bale Mountains. The EWCP monitoring team has been deployed to Sanetti (the vaccination site) and back to Morebawa (the outbreak site). We also have a constant presence in the Web Valley (the October outbreak site). The good news is that no wolf carcasses have been found since the end of vaccinations in June. The two carcasses found on the Sanetti Plateau during the vaccinations tested negative for rabies. As they were both juveniles, they most likely died naturally – this time of year sees high mortality in wolves of this age, due to them being independent and struggling to find food.

We have had repeated visits to the packs where we were vaccinating in Sanetti. All wolves except one have been observed since they were vaccinated. This is an exceptionally high return rate, a great effort by the monitoring team.

We recently had further good news on the return of the team from Morebawa. During the outbreak, the team had only seen 26 live wolves, and so it was feared that as many as 70 were dead or missing. However, we have now sighted 32 live wolves, and we know that seven of the eleven packs still have an adult male and an adult female. Retaining this breeding pair will be crucial for ensuring a rapid recovery of wolf numbers in this area.

All the monitoring team have worked exceptionally hard, and we are lucky to have such dedicated and skilled staff.

19 June 2009

 

Vaccinating Ethiopian Wolves


Rabies Outbreak in the Bale Mountains – Vaccinating Ethiopian Wolves

Posted: 19 Jun 2009 02:03 AM PDT

It’s 2am on the Sanetti Plateau. And it’s cold. Very cold. There’s no wind, no sound at all in fact. With the sleeping bag pulled over my head it’s only through a small crack that I can see the light from the full moon filtering through the tent fabric. Then suddenly the silence is shattered by a slightly out-of-breath cry: “Wolf!” Ibrahim, our vet assistant, has just checked the traps and has run back to report that we’ve caught a wolf! There is an immediate flurry of activity in the surrounding tents. Beanies and gloves are hastily pulled on, vet supplies are checked, someone grabs a large blanket, and we’re off. In the moonlight it’s easy to find our way over the deserted landscape, towards the trap where our Ethiopian wolf awaits.

Sanetti camping © EWCP

As we near the trap site, we hang back while Ibrahim and Alo spread the blanket between them and make their way towards the wolf. Suddenly they break into a run, and in a flash have thrown the blanket over the surprised wolf and are holding it on the ground. As soon as it is covered, the wolf relaxes, and the rest of us rush in to assist with the vaccinations.

Sanetti vaccinations © EWCP

It’s an adult male, he’s in good health and probably weighs about 17kg. From his size, coat colour and teeth wear, Claudio reckons he’s the dominant male of the pack. Leta quickly gives him two doses of rabies vaccine, one on each hindquarter, and attaches a blue tag to his left ear for identification purposes.

Sanetti vaccinations © EWCP

His legs are checked for any trap injuries, and within five minutes he’s ready to be released. Alo loosens his hold on the wolf’s body and as soon as we remove the cloth covering his eyes, he’s off into the night, turning only once to look back at us before running off. All in a night’s work.

Sanetti vaccinations © EWCP

Sanetti vaccinations © EWCP

That was wolf number four from Nyala pack – only one more to catch and we can move on to the next pack.Over the past two weeks the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) team has been camped at over 4,000m above sea level on the Sanetti plateau, running a vaccination campaign to prevent a rabies outbreak from spreading through the wolf population. EWCP wolf monitors first noticed something was wrong when they returned from a trip to the West Morebawa population – 11 wolf carcasses were found and samples sent to laboratories returned positive results for rabies. The EWCP team, based in the Bale Mountains, was given permission by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority to vaccinate 50 wolves in the Sanetti population against rabies, with the aim of isolating the outbreak and stopping its spread. We sprung into action and managed to successfully vaccinate a total of 48 wolves in 9 packs, making sure that at least one female in each pack was vaccinated. For now, the threat of rabies seems to have been contained, but for how long? Interventions like these are a costly exercise, requiring a hefty investment in terms of both finances and EWCP resources. And it only takes one rabid dog to come into contact with one Ethiopian wolf for the disease to spread like wildfire. Left unchecked, a rabies outbreak could have devastating effects on a species that numbers less than 450 animals in the world today.

Sanetti scenery © EWCP

The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme has to tackle emergency rabies outbreaks like this as soon as it can and therefore funds are vital in order to purchase vaccinations.  Any funds you would are able to offer will be very well spent protecting the Ethiopian wolf from extinction.


10 November 2008

 

Rabies "barrier" to save Ethiopian wolves


Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme

Press Release

10 November 2008

 

A team of dedicated conservationists is battling to save the world's rarest wolf from a rabies outbreak by creating a 'barrier' of vaccinated wolf packs.

 

With less than 500 left, the endangered Ethiopian wolf teeters on the brink of extinction. In their stronghold in the Bale Mountains National Park wolves live in close contact with the Oromo people. Whilst this coexistence is encouraging, it places the wolves at great risk of catching the rabies virus from the dogs the Oromo use to herd livestock. The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) has been actively protecting the wolves in Bale Mountains since 1988.

'Despite the efforts of our veterinary team, who vaccinate thousands of dogs in Bale's villages every year, the virus has raised its ugly head again and jumped into the wolf population,' said Dr Claudio Sillero of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and EWCP Director. 'Fifteen wolves have died to date, and laboratory tests have confirmed our worst fears that we are facing another potentially devastating outbreak. If left unchecked, rabies is likely to kill over two-thirds of all wolves in Bale's Web Valley, and spread further, with wolves dying horrible deaths and numbers dwindling to perilously low levels.' In 2003 a similar epidemic swept through, and a rapid response by the Ethiopian authorities and EWCP blocked the spread of the epidemic. 


A team led by Claudio, EWCP Coordinator Dr Graham Hemson and Dr Fekadu Shiferaw of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority is implementing a plan to vaccinate wolf packs to create a 'barrier' to prevent the virus from spreading. The researchers knew from previous outbreaks that they had to move quickly to stop the virus in its tracks so they began by vaccinating the first wolf on 20 October.  


'Tracking and vaccinating these animals is a far from easy task,' said Dr Sillero. 'Our veterinary team are travelling on horse-back and camping out in remote mountains above 12,000 feet with temperatures falling as low as -15°C. But the first three weeks of the intervention have gone well with the team vaccinating to date forty-eight wolves in eleven vital packs that connect the Web Valley population with other wolves in Bale. The objective is to secure a 'cordon sanitaire' of safely vaccinated wolf packs which will prevent the virus reaching other packs living further afield in the Bale Mountains.'

 

'These preciously rare wolves can ill-afford it another massive die-off', concluded Claudio.


Researchers at Oxford University have developed a detailed knowledge of the wolves from 20 years of continuous study. A sophisticated computer model of how rabies spreads developed with colleagues at Glasgow University guides their vaccination efforts.

 

Professor David Macdonald, Director of Oxford's WildCRU, commented 'It is only because of years of intensive research that we have the information, and strategies, in place to mount this ambitious vaccination plan. It's a powerful example of the importance of the science and practice of wildlife conservation combined in the effort to deliver practical solutions.'

The intervention has been endorsed by the IUCN Canid Specialist Group and the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group, and has been sanctioned by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development.

 

Dr Claudio Sillero

Oxford, UK

 

The story in the news: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7715693.stm

 

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


03 September 2008

 
Wolves vaccinated in 2003 developed protective levels of antibodies against rabies!

By Darryn Knobel

Knobel DL, Fooks AR, Brookes M, Randall DA, Williams SD, Argaw K, Shiferaw F, Tallents LA and Laurenson MK (2008). Trapping and vaccination of endangered Ethiopian wolves to control an outbreak of rabies. Journal of Applied Ecology 45: 109–11

This paper describes the trapping and vaccination effort that was undertaken by EWCP to control an outbreak of rabies that occurred in the Bale Mountains National Park wolf population, and reports the results of this intervention. In 2003, the survival of the BMNP wolves was threatened by an outbreak of rabies in the Web Valley subpopulation. With the assistance of the park authorities and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Department, EWCP instigated a vaccination campaign to contain the virus to the affected area and to protect wolf packs in other parts of the park. Wolves were trapped using soft-catch leg-hold traps and vaccinated with a dog rabies vaccine produced by Intervet. Eighty-four wolves were vaccinated over the course of the intervention. A small sample of wolves were recaptured to test the efficacy of the vaccine: all 19 of these animals were shown to have developed protective levels of antibodies against the virus. The results of this study, together with the predictions of the theoretical model developed by Dan Haydon and colleagues (Nature, 12th Oct 2006), demonstrate that the intervention was necessary and effective in preventing further spread of the virus and thus contributed to the ongoing survival of this unique species.


02 September 2008

 
Let’s talk about rats!

Update from Flavie Vial, PhD student


The afroalpine of the Bale Mountains supports an exceptionally high diversity of rare and endemic rodent species, such as the giant molerat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus), a favourite prey of the Ethiopian wolf! However, over the last 20 years, the park has been used to graze increasingly high numbers of livestock that are suspected to have reduced rodent diversity and abundance. This reduction constitutes a threat to the persistence of the Ethiopian wolves. Investigating the effects of livestock grazing on the functioning of the afroalpine has been identified as one of the leading research priority for the park.


I attempt to establish critical links between vegetation, livestock grazing and rodent communities through field investigations and through the construction of enclosures within which no livestock is allowed. The building of these enclosures will unequivocally determine the extent to which livestock grazing has an impact on vegetation diversity/biomass and rodent abundance in the BMNP as well as inform us on the recovery time-scale of the system once livestock grazing is removed. Elsewhere, research has shown that both plant and rodent populations can respond rapidly to the removal of grazing pressure although responses may not stabilise until several years following grazing exclusion. Thus, establishing the enclosures is an investment that will exceed the duration of my PhD and will provide the park with important infrastructures to develop the scientific basis for future management of natural resources strategies. I will then use these findings to carry out some predictive modelling of the impact of livestock-rodents competition on wolves and determine areas where high levels of grazing are predicted to affect the long-term survival of the wolves.


 


EWCP ANNUAL REPORT
May 2008
By Dr Graham Hensom, EWCP Field Coordinator
A busy 12 months has seen EWCP sign a new MoU with Oromia and WCA, gain momentum in Arsi, celebrate 10 years of Wolf Days in Bale and expand its veterinary team. Programme performance measures indicate that Bale wolves are doing well and rabies immunity rates in domestic dogs increasing with our expanded veterinary work.
Download from www.ethiopianwolf.org/publications/EWCP Annual Report 2007-2008

28 June 2007

 

Edie Hemson

New EWCP recruit getting ready for Bale!

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