High in Ethiopia's peaks lives the rarest canine on Earth – the Ethiopian wolf. Today, fewer than 500 are left in the world. While the survival of their species hangs in the balance, they continue to reign over this remote region. But their secret isn’t speed or strength. It’s a loyal family.
These canines are native to the Ethiopian Highlands. Known as the guardians of the Roof of Africa, they can be spotted roaming the Bale and Simien Mountains. Sporting a tawny coat, shaggy tail, and pointed ears, they resemble a long-legged red fox but are in fact close relatives of the grey wolf and coyote.
Ethiopian wolves live in tight-knit communities of up to 18 extended family members. The pack relies on a well-established hierarchy to mate, hunt, and thrive. A single dominant female breeds, while the rest work together to raise her pups. Whether it’s babysitting or dawn patrol, each wolf plays their part in keeping the clan safe. However, when it comes to hunting, these wolves work alone.
Since Ethiopian wolves are restricted to seven isolated enclaves, they have acquired a specialised diet for Afroalpine rodents such as big-headed mole rats and common grass rats. Hunting during the day, they creep with the stealth and precision of a wild cat. When their target comes into range, the wolf dives into a bustling warren, snatching it up in mere seconds.
In recent years, these remarkable hounds have become Africa’s most endangered carnivore. Their single greatest threat is humans, with subsistence farming and overgrazing forcing them out of their natural habitat and into unknown territory. Additionally, diseases such as canine distemper and rabies are being spread by livestock and domestic dogs, decimating already vulnerable populations.
To safeguard Ethiopian wolves from extinction, The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and Born Free implemented the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme. Through large-scale vaccinations of both dogs and wolves, they have been able to prevent diseases from spreading further. Just as a wolf is weak without its pack, so are humans without the natural world. Only by protecting and caring for our wildlife can we all thrive.