High in the mountains of Ethiopia lives the most rare of the wild canids: the Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis). This elegant, long-legged canid was long thought to be in the fox or jackal family but recent mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing shows the Ethiopian wolf is its own distinct species, closely related to the Grey wolf.
There are currently six (6) known populations of the Ethiopian wolf consisting of roughly 450 adults and sub-adults. To the north of the Great Rift Valley the Simien Mountains, North Wollo, South Wollo Highlands and Menz and the Arsi and Bale Mountains to the Southeast. The Bale Mountains are currently home to the largest population, over 50% of the remaining wolves.
Occasionally the wolves will band together to hunt young ungulates such as the duiker, mountain reedbuck and mountain nyala but for the most part the Ethiopian wolf is a solitary hunter. They subsist mainly on the abundant rodent population found in the afro-alpine grasslands. Sixteen (16) species of rodent have been documented in the Bale Mountain highlands including the black-clawed brush-furred rat, the vlei rat, Blick’s grass rat and the wolves favorite food, the giant mole-rat.
- Habitat loss from human encroachment
- Disease from domestic dogs
- Hybridization with domestic dogs
- Genetic isolation