Ethiopian Wolf - © Claudio Sillero
English: Simien fox, Simien jackal; French: loup d'Abyssinie; German: Aethiopiefuchs; Italian: volpe rossa; Spanish: lobo Eiiope; Indigenous names: Amharic: ky kebero; Ooro: jedalia farda (Ethiopia)
The Ethiopian Wolf is endemic to the Ethiopian highlands, above the tree line at about 3,200 m. There are no recent records of the species at altitudes below 3,000 m, although specimens were collected at 2,500 m from Gojjam and north-western Shoa at the beginning of the century (references in Yalden et al. 1980). Reported in the Simien Mountains since the species was first described in 1835, but scattered and irregular sightings suggest numbers have been declining. Reported on the Gojjam plateau until early this century (Powell-Cotton 1902; Maydon 1932). South of the Rift Valley, wolves have been reported in the Arsi Mountains since the turn of the century, and, more recently (1959), in the Bale Mountains. Reports of small populations in North Sidamo (Haltenorth and Diller 1980) may be in error. There is no evidence that the Ethiopian Wolf ever occurred in Eritrea (Coetzee 1977).
The species currently is confined to seven isolated mountain ranges of the Ethiopian highlands, at altitudes of 3,000–4,500 m (Gottelli and Sillero-Zubiri 1992; Marino 2003). In the northern highlands wolves are restricted to land above 3,500–3,800 m by increasing agricultural pressure (Yalden et al. 1980; Marino 2003). Wolf populations occur north of the Rift Valley in the Simien Mountains, Mount Guna, North Wollo and South Wollo highlands, and Menz. Recently extinct in Gosh Meda (North Shoa), and absent from Mt Choke, Gojjam, for a few decades. South-east of the Rift Valley there are populations in the Arsi Mountains (Mt Kaka, Mt Chilalo and Galama range) and in the Bale Mountains, including the Somkaru-Korduro range (Marino 2003).
Habitat and Ecology:
More than half of the species' population lives in the Bale Mountains, where wolf density is high for a social carnivore of its size, and is positively correlated with density of rodent prey and negatively with vegetation height (Sillero-Zubiri and Gottelli 1995). Highest wolf densities are found in short Afroalpine herbaceous communities (1.0–1.2 adults/km²); lower densities are found in Helichrysum dwarf-scrub (0.2/km²), and in ericaceous heathlands and barren peaks (0.1/km²). Wolves are also present at low density (0.1–0.2/km²) in montane grasslands at lower altitudes.
Elsewhere, overall wolf density is relatively lower In Menz, wolf density was estimated at 0.2 animals/km² using transect data (Ashenafi 2001). Comparison of census transect data from recent comprehensive surveys (Marino 2003) indicates higher abundance in North Wollo (0.20 ± 0.20 sightings per km), intermediate in Arsi and Guna (0.10 ± 0.11 and 0.10 ± 0.14, respectively), and lower in South Wollo and Simien (0.08 ± 0.13 and 0.06 ± 0.11, respectively). These results were supported by counts of wolf signs (diggings and droppings) and interview results.
A summary of abundance and population trend in each region can be found in Sillero-Zubiri et al. (2004). The most reliable population estimates are those from Bale and Menz where research has been more intense. The size of the populations in other mountain ranges was derived from field maps of current habitat distribution and extrapolations of wolf densities to the areas of 'optimal' and 'good' quality wolf habitat in each isolated range (Marino 2003).
Time series of count data from a long-term monitoring programme in the Bale Mountains of southern Ethiopia, spanning over 17 years, evidenced marked variation in wolf abundance in association to disease epizootics affecting high-density populations in the early 1990s (Marino 2004). Population numbers returned to previous levels after disruption, evidencing resilience to catastrophes, but at the lower extreme of densities the population rate of increase was inversely density-dependent; delays in the formation of new breeding units appeared to limit the capacity for immediate recovery (Marino et al. submitted).