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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.

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