When a rabies outbreak hit Ethiopian wolves in their Bale Mountains stronghold, the future of the species hung in the balance. Rabies can spread quickly, meaning that the disease had the potential to devastate the wolves. The team at the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program (EWCP) jumped into action, and, a year later, the wolves are now thriving.
Rabies is always a potential major threat to the wolves, and that threat became real last year when a wolf corpse tested positive for the disease. An emergency response team was mobilized in partnership with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and the Bale Mountains National Park to vaccinate the wolf population. Moving swiftly despite challenging conditions, the team vaccinated 120 wolves. That number is roughly a quarter of the total worldwide population, which stands at around 500 animals.
Despite the loss of 22 wolves, disease control has been successful and the team is optimistic for the future. No packs went extinct, and subsequent breeding was successful, meaning the wolves are well on the way to recovery. Population growth in some regions in Ethiopia is at a record high. Though that bodes well for a bright future for the wolves, it also means that close monitoring is required to make sure that disease does not rip through densely populated regions.
Emergency funding from generous supporters has also allowed EWCP to vaccination over 3,000 domestic dogs spread throughout 46 villages that border territory used by the wolves. This will help to prevent further rabies outbreaks that could occur in interactions between village dogs and the wolves, while also helping to keep the village dogs themselves and the human population safe.
Funding also allowed more veterinarians to be trained as part of a rabies alert network that dispenses information quickly throughout Ethiopia and can assist in tracking the route of the disease in order to prevent any further deaths. This rapid dissemination of information is part of what made isolating the current outbreak so successful.
ECWP is thrilled to report that there have been no rabies deaths since March of 2015.
-Text by Elizabeth Rogers, photo courtesy of Rebecca Jackrel