Deep in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, wildlife workers trek up above 9,800 feet to save some of the world’s most rare carnivores, Ethiopian wolves.“It’s cold, tough work,” says Eric Bedin, who leads the field monitoring team in its uphill battle.In this sparse, sometimes snowy landscape, the lanky and ginger-colored wolves (Canis simensis) reign as the region’s apex predators. Yet the combined threats of rabies, canine distemper and habitat reduction have the animals cornered.
Most members of the Canidae family, such as wolves, dogs and foxes, are versatile and opportunistic animals, thriving in many habitats and some even living in urban and suburban settings. In contrast, Ethiopian wolves are highly specialised to life in the Ethiopian highlands. Also called the “Roof of Africa”, it encompasses 80% of Africa’s land above 3,000m.They are remarkable rodent hunters, with long muzzles and slender legs. Their tight social bonds help them protect their precious family territories from competitors. For a canid of their size (about 14-20kg – the weight of a medium-sized dog), Ethiopian wolves are unique at surviving on small prey (most highland rodent species weigh less than 100g) and are solitary foragers. With their striking red coats and black and white markings, they appear physically distant from their closest relative, the grey wolf.