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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.


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 Annual Report 2007-2008

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