29 September 2006
Conservation genetics of Ethiopian wolves, by Deborah Randall
It is generally assumed that the risk of extinction is higher in small populations of endangered species due to higher inbreeding and lower genetic diversity. Because the genetic diversity among Ethiopian wolves is known to be low, genetic management has been considered to prevent further loss of genetic diversity over time. Nevertheless, a number of uncertainties existed about whether genetic management was necessary to prevent genetic deterioration or the degree to which genetic considerations were a priority in view of other threats to the species' survival. The strongest and most immediate threats to population persistence are probably not genetic factors, but habitat loss and
infectious diseases transmitted from domestic dogs. In my thesis, I set out to examine the factors affecting the genetic diversity and dynamics of small, insular, and endangered populations of Ethiopian wolves in order to: (1) assess whether small population size and isolation increase the risk of inbreeding among related individuals, (2) determine the multitude of factors affecting gene flow and genetic structure, and (3) determine whether genetic diversity is likely to be lost over time.
My results show that noninvasively collected genetic samples (ie. faecal samples) can be used to provide incredibly valuable information about the behaviour, demography, and population dynamics of Ethiopian wolves without the need for capture or handling of the animals. Also, genetic diversity among Ethiopian wolves is strongly influenced by the social structure of packs and the breeding system. Dispersal by females and philopatry by males reduces inbreeding in the population since opposite-sex pack members (and breeding pairs in particular) end up being most often unrelated. Strong social structure also maintains genetic diversity at higher levels than would be expected in a randomly mating population. Nevertheless, recurring disease outbreaks are having a subtantial negative impact on genetic diversity because they result in the irreversible loss of rare alleles from the population. The good news
is that management strategies that reduce the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks among Ethiopian wolves would curtail this predicted loss of genetic variation. In fact, eliminating outbreaks would be sufficient to maintain 95% of the current genetic diversity among Ethiopian wolves in the Bale Mountains over the next 50 years at least. Thus, at least for the time being, overt genetic management such as genetic restoration through translocations or reintroductions of genetically diverse individuals is not considered necessary for this population. Instead, genetic diversity can be maintained as a by-product of core conservation strategies that maintain a large and stable
population size. Of course, the situation must be closely monitored in case genetic deterioration starts to occur, as this would increase the risk of extinction for Ethiopian wolves. Genetic monitoring may be especially important in the small northern populations where genetic diversity may be lost more rapidly than in the Bale Mountains.
28 September 2006
Job Opportunity with WildCRU in secondment to the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme
Department of Zoology
Field Coordinator (
Applications are invited for the post of Field Coordinator within the
We are seeking an experienced conservation biologist (with at least 5 years experience in Africa and a proven field record)to fill the position of Field Coordinator in
Further particulars can be downloaded from www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/Current_Vacancies or are available from the Personnel Office, Department of Zoology,
Applications, consisting of a full curriculum vitae, covering letter and contact details of two referees, should be sent to the above address, quoting reference number AT 06044. The closing date for applications is 18 October 2006.
25 September 2006
Ethiopia and the wolves on the Terra Sauvage magazine
The article describes the many threats wolves are facing in
Visit the Terra Sauvage website at www.terre-sauvage.com
24 September 2006
Help us with your photos of Ethiopian wolves for the Lone Wolf Documentary
I'm currently editing the documentary on the Lone Wolf Expedition to the
The film is promoting research and conservation on the wolf and may accrue some funds for future work. It will be shown at various conferences, given to funders and anyone that contributed to making the expedition possible, such as the EWCP.
There is a possibility of selling it as an educational material, to expedition societies and biology departments that are keen on field work - essentially a 'how to do an expedition' or 'this is what field work is like' kind of film, both of which will feature the wolf and its current situation. If so, we (LWP) plan to put 50% (the other 50% going to equipment and expedition production costs)of any profits into a small fund, which would make available a start-up grant for an expedition or project hoping to expand on the preliminary surveys we did. Very few student expeditions bother to care about what happens to the thing they're studying after completion.
For the opener we plan to summarise what the expedition is about with a photo sequence, with photos flashing up to the beat of music by Gi Gi (the Ethiopian artist). As the wolf is very few in number in the Simien, we only managed one good photo! I would be very appreciative of any photos of wolves people could let me use.
Lone Wolf Project