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Range and Habitat

The Ethiopian wolf is known by many names in its range such as the Ethiopian Red Fox and Simian Fox. Locally it is known as ky kebero, which means red jackal.

It is one of the least known canid species with the smallest range. An estimated 340 - 520 individuals are left in the entire world. They occur in a region known as Afro-alpine, a small, specialized are in the mountains of Ethiopia. They live at an elevation of 3,000 - 4,377 m. Two distinct populations occur within Ethiopia. One, in the Bale Mountains National Park, has the highest concentration of Ethiopian wolves, numbering around 250. At 850 square miles, this is the wolves' most viable habitat, and is important for the survival of the species. The other population, of about 50-100 individuals, occur in the Arsi and Simein mountains. They were first discovered by research biologists in this area, which gave them one of their many names. This population is highly unstable and may become extinct at any time. Physical Appearance

They are different than other jackals in that they have a longer muzzle and smaller teeth. Its coloring is reddish gold with white under parts. The males are significantly larger than the females, with the males weighing from 33-42 lb (15-19 kg) and females weghing from 24-31 lb. (11.2-14.15 kg). Their legs are comparitively long. Their body color is an overall reddish brown with white undersides, legs and markings on the face. Their bushy tail is white at the base and black at the tip.

The ethiopian wolf has long been considered to be a species of jackal, due to its appearance and its range. But recent genetic and phylogenic (blood) tests have proven it to be more closely related to the wolf and coyote of North America. How this African canid could be more closely related to a North American canid than to jackals that live in the same range is somewhat of a mystery. It has long been disputed, since it was always believed that jackals and wolves were several millions of evolutionary years apart from one another. Some scientists believe that the Ethiopian wolf may be what is left of the ancestor that linked wolves and jackals together. It is suggested from DNA analysis that the Ethiopian wolf is descended from grey wolves that crossed into Africa from Western Europe at the end of the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago. When the ice melted, the wolves were isolated in the Afro-alpine mountains. Diet

Ethiopian wolves are diurnal (hunt during the daytime). Rodents comprise more than 90% of their diet. The majority of the rodents are the giant molerat and two species of grass-rat. Among these, the giant mole-rat provides the majority of sustenance for the wolves. In areas of high density of the mole-rats, there are more wolves than areas of low density. Anything that affects the population of the molerats would have a tremendous affect on the wolves. Their prey spends much of its time underground, and comes above ground to forage for food, and when it does it is taken by the wolf. The Ethiopian wolf will often cache its prey. Reproduction and Life Cycle

Sexual maturity is at 2 years. Mating occurs on the winter, with gestation of 8 weeks (60-62 days). Only the alpha female breeds, and she is not monogamous, and does not only mate with the alpha male in her pack. She may mate with males from nearby packs, so the cubs are born from a mixed parentage. This unusual breeding behavior results from cramped conditions, and to prevent inbreeding, since the pack is mostly males. The alpha female holds her rank until death, and after which they are replaced by the beta female in the pack. The female gives birth to 3-7 cubs in a den located in a cliff. The cubs are born a dark grey color, which is replaced by their adult coloration at three weeks. It is also at this time that they begin to venture from the den. The densite is regularly rotated at this time as well. Other females in the pack may assist suckling of the young cubs. At five weeks old, the weaning process begins, and the parents and other pack members regurgitate food for the cubs in addition to suckling milk. From ten weeks to six months, the cubs eat regurgitated meat and accompany the other wolves on hunting trips. Physical and sexual maturity is reached at 2 years old. Social Behavior

Ethiopian wolves display an unusual social system for a canid. They live in large, close-knit packs of anywhere from 6-13 individuals. Packs contain twice as many males as females. Like most social canine societies, the dominant female is the only one who breeds. Others in the pack help to rear the young, and non-breeding females lactate at the same time as the dominant female, so they can suckle the young. The others help to gather food for the female, and for the cubs when they are old enough to eat meat. They are social, but they hunt alone. It is thought that they stay in groups to help defend their rodent-rich territory from outsiders. All the areas where rodents are found throughout their range are taken by packs. As a result, most male wolves and some female wolves remain in their natal packs. Many female wolves become stragglers between the territories of other packs. They occupy a home range of about 1.1 - 5.4 square miles (2.4 - 12 km sq), which is smaller than would be expected for their size. The boundaries are marked regularly with urine and feces from all pack members. This is reinforced by auditory cues like howling and visual cues like claw marks on trees near the boundaries. Pack rivalry is common, and the winner of such scuffles is determined by the size of the pack. Threats

The Ethiopian wolf is the most endangered canid species; there are estimated that fewer than 500 individuals survive in the wild today. Although they are protected, they are still shot by Oromo cattle and sheep farmers who live in the Bale Mountain Park. However, diseases such as rabies and distemper, spread by local domestic dogs, pose an even bigger threat. From 1990-95, 70% of the Bale Mountain wolf population was decimated from disease caused by the farmer's dogs. A conservation group vaccinated the local dogs from distemper and rabies, which greatly helped the wild wolf population. However, the threat of hybridizing with the dogs still poses a threat, and can dilute their small genetic pool. Since they have evolved to only live in the very specialized Afro-alpine region of Ethiopia, they are threatened by their own specialization in habitat. Since they only have very few small populations to begin with, any outside threat is likely to devastate the population.

The Ethiopian is listed on the IUCN's red list, as Critically Endangered. It is not listed by CITES since it is not affected by poaching or trade. The Ethiopian wolf is officially protected in Ethiopia. The 1974 Wildlife Conservation Regulations stated that they can only be hunted and killed for scientific purposes by permit, but no permits have been issued in the past 15 years. Subspecies

  • Canis simensis simensis, which lives north of the Rift Valley, *Canis simensis citernii, which lives to the southeast of the Rift Valley.

References

   *
     Alderton, David. Foxes, Wolves, and Wild Dogs of the World. Blandford Press: United Kingdom, 1994. ISBN:0713723521
   *
     Stuart, Chris and Tilde. Africa's Vanishing Wildlife. Smithsonian Press: Washington D.C., 1996. ISBN:1-56098-678-6
   *
     Verde, Tom. "Handsome Higlander." Wildlife Conservation, Jan./Feb., Vol. 105, No. 1, pages 36-43. (Simien Wolf in Ethiopia.)
   *
     2000 IUCN Red List: Canis simensis
   *
     Animal Diversity Web: Ethiopian Wolf
   *
     Animal Info - Ethiopian Wolf
   *
     Canid News: Expansion of Ethiopian Wolf Conservation to Northern Ethiopia (PDF)
   *
     IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group: Ethiopian Wolf
   *
     The Ethiopian Wolf Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan
   *
     WildCRU Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme
   *
     Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program

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