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17 November 2003


EWCP Press release: Vaccination of Ethiopian wolves against rabies

The EWCP has teamed up with veterinarians from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation (EWCO) in an effort to contain a rabies epidemic affecting the largest population of rare Ethiopian wolves in the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) of southern Ethiopia.

The global population of the endangered Ethiopian wolf is estimated at fewer than 500 adults, of which over half are found in Bale. Since September 2003, 28 wolves have died in the Web Valley (a core wolf area) alone and many more are unaccounted for; this represents over 50% of the wolves in Web and about 15% of the world population. In addition, 34 domestic dogs are known to have contracted rabies in and around Web and were destroyed by their owners; 20 cattle were bitten by rabid dogs and also destroyed. These losses represent a significant economic and personal cost for the people of Bale. At least one person has been bitten.

All wolf samples sent for diagnosis to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA confirm the wolves died of rabies. The EWCP responded to the first signs of the outbreak by immediately moving its Dog Vaccination Team to the affected area to treat any unvaccinated dogs they could find. They are working with EWCO, BMNP and the Oromiya Regional Government to trace the transmission route and spread of the disease, which seems to have been brought into the Bale Mountains by one or more immigrant domestic dogs.

After reviewing the options available to contain the disease, the Ethiopian authorities authorized a wolf vaccination campaign which was launched last Friday. Eight wolves were captured and vaccinated in the first 48 hours. Joint EWCP and EWCO Field Teams are operating in areas adjacent to the Web Valley in the hope of anticipating and halting the spread of the deadly virus.

The EWCP, in conjunction with BMNP staff, has instituted ongoing measures to deal with this emergency, including combing the park for sick or dead wolves and livestock, collecting samples for analysis and diagnosis, and inoculating any remaining unvaccinated domestic dogs.

The EWCP is based in the Bale Mountains and operates under agreements with the federal and regional governments in Ethiopia, and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of the University of Oxford, UK. The EWCP receives its core financial support from the Born Free Foundation with additional funding from the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other donors. The IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group and the Veterinary Specialist Group, as well as independent international experts on canid diseases and conservation, are providing technical advice.

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, 17 November 2003.

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