Tools of the Trade

The most immediate threat to the Ethiopian wolves survival is disease passed on by domestic dogs, specifically rabies and canine distemper virus.  We talk a lot about the successes of the recent vaccine trial the EWCP has carried out in the Bale Mountains and we talk about the need to raise money to purchase vaccines for both continued vaccinations of the domestic dogs in wolf territory and an expansion of the vaccine trial for the wolves themselves.

What we haven’t talked about are the tools the folks need in the field daily to monitor the focal packs of wolves.  Wolf monitors spend weeks at a time in the field following specific packs in order to determine the health of the population.  It may sound easy — a stroll through a beautiful national park but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Bale Mountains are an extremely remote region with many packs living in areas completely inaccessible to even the toughest Landrover.  During the rainy season the ground is often so saturated with water that the deep mud is impassible to motor vehicles.  The solution is to use a time tested version of transportation: horses.

While arguably less expensive to care for than their US counterparts, the strong, reliable Ethiopian mountain ponies require the same veterinary and basic husbandry as a pampered pony living in California or Texas.  A donation of $350 will fully cover the care for a single EWCP horse for an entire year.

The remoteness of the wolf territory means that monitors can’t just run out for a few hours, make some notes and head home for dinner.  They have to spend days riding out to a pack’s territory and camp for weeks in the cold mountains while they make their observations.  There are no hotels or comfortable huts for them to stay in so they need to make certain they are completely self-sufficient with a study, waterproof tent, waterproof boots, cooking tools and a warm sleeping bag.  Outfitting a wolf monitor to enable them to work efficiently and safely in the field costs around $900.

And then, it’s all well and good to send them out into these remote areas… they may be able to say ‘I saw a wolf by the tallest lobelia tree in Worgona Valley’, but that information isn’t much good if it can’t be specifically tracked and documented.  A handheld GPS is needed to accurately map the location of den sites, pack movements and potential disease carriers.  Binoculars are also needed to find wolves in a landscape where they are well suited to blending in.  It costs roughly $600 to outfit a monitor with a GPS, binoculars and a compass.

Without these tools of the trade the wolf monitors wouldn’t be able to travel into the mountains to track the health and welfare of the species.  Rabies outbreaks would go unnoticed until all of the wolves had been wiped out.  The ability to identify and respond to potential threats is tantamount to saving this species and the wolf monitors are the front guard in the battle against the diseases which threaten the wolves.

Consider a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Network so they can keep wolf monitors outfitted and in doing so, keep the beautiful Ethiopian wolf around for future generations to marvel.

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