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Ethiopian Wolf (Simian jackal) - Canis simensis
Ethiopian Wolf (Simian jackal) - Canis simensis

Geographic Range
The Ethiopian wolf has a very restricted range. It is found only in six or seven mountain ranges of Ethiopia. This includes the Arssi and Bale mountains of southeast Ethiopia, the Simien mountains, northeast Shoa, Gojjam, and Mt. Guna (Ginsberg and Macdonald 1990). The largest population exists in the Bale Mountains National Park with 120-160 individuals (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1995).

Elevation - 3000 to 4400 m (9840 to 14432 ft)
Canis simensis is found in afro-alpine grasslands and heathlands where vegetation is less than 0.25 m high. It lives at altitudes of 3000-4400 m (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994).

Physical Description
Mass - 11.20 to 19.30 kg (24.64 to 42.46 lbs)
Length - 841 to 1012 mm (33.11 to 39.84 in)
Ethiopian wolves are long-limbed, slender looking canids. They have a reddish coat with white marking on the legs, underbelly, tail, face, and chin. The boundary between the red and white fur is quite distinct. White markings on the face include a characteristic white crescent below the eyes and a white spot on the cheeks. The chin and throat are also white. The tail is marked with an indistinct black stripe down its length and a brush of black hairs at the tip. The ears are wide and pointed and the nose, gums, and palate are black. Females are generally paler in color than males and are smaller overall. There are five toes on the front feet and four on the rear feet. Males measure from 928 to 1012 mm (average 963 mm) and females from 841 to 960 mm (average 919 mm). Males weigh from 14.2 to 19.3 kg (average 16.2) and females from 11.2 to 14.2 kg (average 12.8). The tail is from 270 to 396 mm in length. The dental formula is 3/3:1/1:4/4:2/3, with the lower third molar being absent occasionally. 

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Number of offspring :2 to 6
Gestation period : 60 to 62 days
Time to weaning : 70 days (average)
For Ethiopian wolves, dispersal from their native packs is limited due to habitat saturation. Males generally remain in their natal pack, and a small number of females disperse in their second or third year. To combat this high potential for inbreeding inside the closely related pack, matings outside the pack occur frequently. Copulation outside the pack occurs with males of all rank, but those within the pack occur only between the dominant male and female. While copulation between males and subordinate females does occur, pups that may arise from this union rarely survive (Sillero-Zubiri et al. 1996).

Prior to copulation, the dominant female increases her rate of scent marking, play soliciting, food begging towards the dominant male, and aggressive behavior towards subordinate females. Ethiopian wolves mate over a period of 3-5 days, involving a copulation tie that lasts up to 15 minutes.

It is not uncommon for a subordinate female to assist in suckling the young of the dominant female. In these cases, the subordinate lactating female is likely pregnant and either loses or deserts her own young for those of the dominant female.

Once a year between October and January, the dominant female in each pack gives birth to a litter of 2-6 pups. Gestation lasts approximately 60-62 days. The female gives birth to her litter in a den she digs in open ground under a boulder or in a rocky crevice. The pups are born with their eyes closed and no teeth. They are charcoal gray with a buff patch on their chest and under areas. At about 3 weeks, the coat begins to be replaced by the normal adult coloring and the young first emerge from the den. After this time, den sites are regularly shifted, sometimes up to 1300m.

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Development of the young occurs in three stages (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994). The first covers weeks 1-4 when the pups are completely dependent on their mother for milk. The second occurs from week 5-10 from when the pups' milk diet is supplemented by solid food regurgitated from all pack members. It ends when the pups are completely weaned. Finally, from week 10 until about 6 months, the young survive almost solely on solid food provided from adult members of the pack. Adults have been seen providing food for young up to 1 year old. The Ethiopian wolf attains full adult appearance at 2 years of age, and both sexes are sexually mature during their second year (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994). Data on life expectancy is inadequate, but C. simensis is likely to live 8-9 years in the wild (Macdonald 1984).

Extreme lifespan (wild) : 12 years (high)
Ethiopian wolves may live 8 to 10 years in the wild, although one wild individual was recorded living to 12 years. (Sillero-Zubiri and Marino, 1995)

Although it primarily does its hunting alone, C. simensis is a social animal, forming packs of 3-13 individuals (mean 6). Packs congregate for social greetings and border patrols at dawn, midday, and evening, but forage individually during the rest of the day. The Ethiopian wolf is diurnal and sleeps in the open during night, alone or in groups. Pack structure is hierarchical and well defined by dominant and submissive displays as seen with other canids. Each sex has a dominance rank with shifts occurring in males occasionally but not in females. Play-fighting among pups in the first few weeks begins to establish rank between siblings (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994).

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Ethiopian wolf packs are territorial. C. simensis travels in packs to patrol its territory. Packs maintain the boundaries of their territories by scent marking and vocalization. Home ranges of packs are small for a canid of its size. The typical home range is 4-15 square kilometers with an average wolf density of 1/square kilometer. Skirmishes between neighboring packs are frequent.

Canis simensis makes several types of vocalization. Alarm calls are emitted at the sight or scent of man, dogs, or unfamiliar wolves. They start with a "huff" and are followed by a series of "yelps" and "barks." Greeting calls consist of "growls" of threat, high-frequency "whines" of submission, and "group yip-howls" given at reunion of pack members. Also, "lone howls" or "group howls" can be heard 5 km away and are used for long distance communication (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994).

Food Habits
Canis simensis is a carnivore, generally preying on rodents ranging in size from the giant mole-rat Tachyoryctes macrocephalus (900 g) to that of the common grass rats (Arvicanthis blicki, Lophuromys melanonyx; 90-120 g) (Ginsberg and Macdonald 1990). In 689 feces, murid rodents accounted for 95.8% of all prey items, and 86.6% belonged to the three species listed above (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994). When present in the hunting range, giant mole-rats are the primary component of the diet. In its absence, the common mole-rat Tachyoryctes splendens is most commonly eaten (Malcom 1997). Canis simensis also eats goslings, eggs, and young ungulates (reedbuck and mountain nyla) and occasionally scavenges carcasses. The Ethiopian wolf often caches its prey in shallow holes (Ginsberg and Macdonald 1990).

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Prey is usually captured by digging it out of burrows. Areas of high prey density are patrolled by wolves walking slowly. Once prey is located, the wolf moves stealthily towards it and grabs it with its mouth after a short dash. Occasionally, the Ethiopian wolf hunts cooperatively to bring down young antelopes, lambs, and hares (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1994).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
The Ethiopian wolf occasionally preys on lambs (Sillero-Zubiri 1995).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Canis simensis helps control populations of rodents in its habitat.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List: Endangered.
US Federal List: Endangered.
CITES: No special status.
Ethiopian wolves are considered endangered by both the IUCN and U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are protected from hunting under Ethiopian law. Effort to curb the transmission of diseases, especially rabies, to Ethiopian wolves from domestic dogs and to prevent hybridization with domestic dogs have been undertaken. In addition, monitoring of Ethiopian wolf populations continues. (Sillero-Zubiri and Marino, 1995)

Other Comments
A recent genetic study suggests that the C. simensis is more closely related to gray wolves and coyotes than any other African canid (jackals, foxes, wild dogs). It is hypothesized that C. simensis is an evolutionary remnant of a past invasion of North Africa by gray wolf-life ancestors (Gottelli et al. 1994).
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"World's Rarest Dog" Could Be Saved With Rabies Vaccine

Sean Markey
for National Geographic News

October 12, 2006

Close monitoring and rapid, targeted vaccinations may be the best way to protect the Ethiopian wolf, the world's rarest canine, against extinction. 

In today's issue of the journal Nature, U.K. scientists suggest that immunizing just 30 percent of the wolf population at the first sign of an outbreak is sufficient to safeguard the endangered species from major outbreaks of rabies and other deadly diseases. 

Only about 500 Ethiopian wolves remain in the wild, and the species has been ravaged by rabies epidemics at least twice in the recent past. But completely immunizing all of those animals is too time-consuming, given current technology. 

The new study shows that even limited immunizations of wild canine species such as the Ethiopian wolf against rabies is "safe and effective," said lead author Dan Haydon, an ecologist and epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. 

"[That is] something that's not always been agreed upon in the conservation community," Haydon added. 

Rarest Dog 

Listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, Ethiopian wolves roam the isolated mountain enclaves of the Ethiopian highlands (Ethiopia map). 

The rust-colored canine, closely related to the gray wolf, lives in small, social packs that meet three times a day and occupy territories that span just a few miles. (Get wolf pictures, profiles, and more.) 

Unlike other wolves, the species hunts alone, with individuals leaving their groups in the late morning and early afternoon in search of giant mole rats and grass rats. 

Although it is protected, the wolf faces two major threats to its long-term survival: fatal disease epidemics introduced by domestic dogs and habitat degraded by livestock grazing. 

In Bale Mountain National Park, home to some 350 wolves, for example, large rabies outbreaks in 1993 and 2003 wiped out 75 and 76 percent respectively of the wolf population, including entire packs. 

The long-term problem of habitation degradation will be difficult to solve, according to Haydon. 

"Population pressures in these areas are only going to get worse," he said. "Livestock graze higher and in ever greater numbers, and the effect of livestock grazing on the wolf's food supply, the rodents, is largely unexplored at the moment. But it's likely to be serious." 

Fatal canid diseases present a more immediate—and more addressable—threat to the wolves. 

Wildlife managers have effective rabies vaccines that can address the problem, but there are complications. 

Ethiopian wildlife officials have yet to approve the use of oral rabies vaccines, which are cheap, effective, and widely used in Europe and the United States, Haydon says. 

As a result, wildlife managers must trap and sedate Ethiopian wolves individually and vaccinate them by hand during rabies outbreaks—an expensive and time-consuming process. 

"Practical" Strategy 

A further consideration is what immunization strategy to employ. Blanket coverage—immunizing most vulnerable individuals—aims to stamp out a disease entirely. 

But the approach is just not practical for Ethiopian wolves, according to the study authors. 

"Theoreticians have devoted a lot of effort to working out how to vaccinate populations in ways that prevent epidemics getting started, but this requires coverage that is impractical in wild populations," Haydon said in a press statement. 

During the 2003 rabies outbreak, staff with the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program and the Frankfurt Zoological Society launched a more targeted vaccination program: Wolves in adjacent mountain valleys were immunized to slow the spread of the disease from infected wolf packs. 

The study team plugged extensive population data—some of it gathered during the 1993 and 2003 rabies outbreaks—into ecological and epidemiological models. The researchers' analysis led them to conclude that such targeted immunizations can prevent major die-offs in wild Ethiopian wolves. 

"We've looked at vaccination studies that don't prevent all outbreaks but do reduce the chances of really big outbreaks—ones that could push an endangered population over the extinction threshold," Haydon said. 

"These strategies turn out to be effective and a lot more practical." 

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A combination of close monitoring and limited vaccination can protect Ethiopian wolves and other canine species from deadly diseases such as rabies, new research suggests. Only about 500 Ethiopian wolves—the world's rarest canine—remain in the wild.
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Experts race to save world's rarest wolf from extinction

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:16 PM on 10th November 2008

A team of dedicated conservationists is battling to save the world's rarest wolf from a rabies outbreak by creating a 'barrier' of vaccinated wolf packs.

With less than 500 left, the endangered Ethiopian wolf teeters on the brink of extinction. They live in the Bale Mountains National Park near to the Oromo people, which places them at risk of catching rabies from dogs. 

The wolves have been protected by the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) since 1998, but the group say they are struggling in their mission.

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An Ethiopian wolf is released after being vaccinated against rabies

'Despite the efforts of our veterinary team, who vaccinate thousands of dogs in Bale's villages every year, the virus has raised its ugly head again and jumped into the wolf population,' said Dr Claudio Sillero , the EWCP Director from Oxford University.

'Fifteen wolves have died to date, and laboratory tests have confirmed our worst fears that we are facing another potentially devastating outbreak. 

'If left unchecked, rabies is likely to kill over two-thirds of all wolves in Bale's Web Valley, and spread further, with wolves dying horrible deaths and numbers dwindling to perilously low levels.

'These preciously rare wolves can ill-afford it another massive die-off.'

In 2003 a similar epidemic swept through, and a rapid response by the Ethiopian authorities and EWCP blocked the spread of the epidemic. 

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Ethiopian wolves are the rarest type of wolf in the world

A team led by Claudio, EWCP Coordinator Dr Graham Hemson and Dr Fekadu Shiferaw of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority is implementing a plan to vaccinate wolf packs to create a 'barrier' to prevent the virus from spreading.

'Tracking and vaccinating these animals is a far from easy task,' said Dr Sillero.

'Our veterinary team are travelling on horse-back and camping out in remote mountains above 12,000 feet with temperatures falling as low as -15°C. 

'But the first three weeks of the intervention have gone well with the team vaccinating to date forty-eight wolves in eleven vital packs that connect the Web Valley population with other wolves in Bale.'

Researchers at Oxford University have developed a detailed knowledge of the wolves from 20 years of continuous study. A sophisticated computer model of how rabies spreads developed with colleagues at Glasgow University guides their vaccination efforts. 

The intervention has been sanctioned by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development.

For more information visit
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Rarest dog: Ethiopian wolves are genetically vulnerable

By Matt Walker
Editor, BBC Nature
26 October 2012 Last updated at 09:09 

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Populations of the world's rarest dog, the Ethiopian wolf, are genetically fragmenting, scientists say.

Fewer than 500 of Africa's only wolf species are thought to survive.

Now a 12-year study of Ethiopian wolves living in the Ethiopian highlands has found there is little gene flow between the small remaining populations.

That places the wolves at greater risk of extinction from disease, or habitat degradation.

In a study published in the journal Animal Conservation, Dada Gottelli of the Zoological Society of London and colleagues in Oxford, UK and Berlin, Germany, quantified the genetic diversity, population structure and patterns of gene flow among 72 wild-living Ethiopian wolves.

The team sampled wolves living within six of the remaining seven remnant populations, as well as from one population at Mount Choke, that has since become extinct.

They found that genetic diversity was relatively high for a species that has declined to fewer than 500 individuals.

That may be because discrete populations of wolves survived in Africa after the last glaciation period, which ended 18,000 years ago, and a number of rare gene types became fixed and maintained in these separate groups.

However, this isolation is now working against the wolves.

Researchers studied gene types at 14 separate locations on the wolf genome. They found that there is now weak gene flow between the Ethiopian wolf groups.

That could be because, like other canids such as grey wolves and red foxes, Ethiopian wolves prefer very specific habitats and are unlikely to travel long distances.

That makes it unlikely that the wolves will join other groups, which would provide an opportunity to mix their genes.

More worryingly, the researchers also found that sub-populations within each population are also isolated.

Fresh blood

The Ethiopian wolf separated from its wolf-like ancestor 100,000 years ago when it colonised the Ethiopian highlands.

Today it is adapted to life above altitudes of 3,000m, where it preys almost exclusively on high-altitude rodents.

But only six populations survive, with a further three having become extinct over the past century.

Ethiopian wolves are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of rabies, a fatal disease that has reduced some populations by up to 75% within a few months.

Another major threat to their future comes from habitat loss and fragmentation, which may be accelerated by climate change.

The concern raised by the study is that the limited gene flow between Ethiopian wolves makes them increasingly vulnerable, as they might not have the genetic diversity needed to fight off disease or adapt to new habitats.

The limited migration of wolves also increases the risk of inbreeding.

The scientists say that efforts must be made to reconnect these isolated populations, by creating habitat corridors linking them.

"It may be necessary in the near future to artificially increase population size and restore gene flow between nearby populations," the researchers write.

That could mean moving male wolves between populations to trigger fresh breeding.

Studies on other species of wolf have showed that moving just one or two males in this way can dramatically increase genetic diversity. 
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Journal Reference:
V. V. Venkataraman, J. T. Kerby, N. Nguyen, Z. T. Ashenafi, P. J. Fashing. Solitary Ethiopian wolves increase predation success on rodents when among grazing gelada monkey herds. Journal of Mammalogy, 2015; 96 (1): 129 DOI: 10.1093/jmammal/gyu013

Mixed-species associations generally form to increase foraging success or to aid in the detection and deterrence of predators. While mixed-species associations are common among mammals, those involving carnivorous predators and potential prey species are seldom reported. On the Guassa Plateau, in the Ethiopian highlands, we observed solitary Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) foraging for rodents among grazing gelada monkey (Theropithecus gelada) herds. The tolerant and sometimes prolonged (> 1h) associations contrasted with the defensive behaviors exhibited by geladas toward other potential predators. Ethiopian wolves spent a higher proportion of time foraging and preyed more successfully on rodents when among geladas than when alone, providing evidence that gelada herds increase the vulnerability of subterranean rodents to predation. Ethiopian wolves appear to habituate gelada herds to their presence through nonthreatening behavior, thereby foregoing opportunistic foraging opportunities upon vulnerable juvenile geladas in order to feed more effectively on rodents. For Ethiopian wolves, establishing proximity to geladas as foraging commensals could be an adaptive strategy to elevate foraging success. The novel dynamics documented here shed light on the ecological circumstances that contribute to the stability of mixed groups of predators and potential prey. 
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