The Ethiopian Wolf Project makes its UK public debut

On Monday 27th August we attended the UK Wolf Conservation Trust open day at their headquarters in Beenham, near Reading, bringing the images and stories captured by Will and Rebecca direct to the UK public for the first time. Around 1700 people attended the event and we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who stopped by our stand to find out about the project, sign up for our mailing list or  support us by purchasing some merchandise.

Ethiopian Wolf Project at UKWCTThe reaction from people to the images was awesome, from our cute, brave pups to our elegant adults, people loved the wolves as well as being able to see images of the afro-alpine landscapes and the conservation work on the ground and understand the full picture.

View of UKWCT open day from the EWProject standWe hope finding out more about the project is just the beginning of our relationship with a new set of fans. If you didn’t get the chance on the day we’d encourage you to:

Subscribe to our newsletter

Follow us via Facebook or Twitter

Purchase your very own super-cute “Aby” stuffed toy

Buy one of our amazing limited edtion prints

Make a donation for the wolves via WCN

We will be back at UKWCT for their next open day which is on World Animal Day – October 7th, please come see us then!


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The Ethiopian Wolf story is coming to you – LIVE!

In the last blog post we talked about how it’s time to put all the images the project has captured to good use. That means taking the story of the wolves out there to the public, engaging people and asking for support in saving this amazing species. A handful of dedicated people have spent years doing all they can, but now it’s time to use the power of photography to spread the word, raise awareness and raise vital funds to put into the front line of conservation in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Wolf against horizon

This is an international mission and a transatlantic co-operation between Will and Rebecca so it’s only fitting that the Ethiopian Wolf Project is planning events in both the UK & US.

If you’re based in the UK, you can visit our stand at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust open days on the following dates:

  • 27th August 2012
  • 7th October 2012
Arctic wolves - UK Wolf Conservation Trust

Arctic wolves at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust

The Trust is based in Beenham, near Reading and these are the only general admission days for the rest of 2012 so it’s a really special opportunity for everyone who loves wolves. You’ll be able to get up close to European wolves, Canadian timber wolves and Arctic wolves (as shown here, it’s an awesome place to practice your own photography) as well as take part in lots of other activities in a brilliant family day out.

We’ll be represented by Tom & Su who look after communications for our project in the UK so come and chat about Ethiopian wolves, photography, find out the latest info on the project and grab a poster or your own cuddly “Aby” wolf to take home!

For our fans in the US there is a really special opportunity to visit our first gallery show which is taking place in Los Angeles, CA between September 18 – November 4 2012 at the G2 Gallery.

Two special dates to mention. Firstly on Saturday, September 22 6:30 – 9:00 pm there is a reception event. Following that on Tuesday 16 October there is a lecture by Professor Claudio Sillero, the director or the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme and our very own Rebecca Jackrel will be there too.

These are just the first events planned, stay tuned there will be more and we really hope we can see as many as possible of you at one of them.

In the meantime don’t forget to stop by our new limited edition print store!

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Time to Move Forward

Did you know that it costs $80.00 for the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme’s veterinary team to vaccinate 10 domestic dogs against rabies?  It costs $1,500 to organize and host World Rabies Day with local communities and schools.  $4,100 will secure the services of an EWCP Education officer for an entire year!

Will and I are keeping these figures in mind as we turn to the second phase of our project.  The images have been captured and edited and it’s time to put them to good use.  Over the next few weeks you’ll notice a lot of changes being made to our site.  The first addition will be a brand new Limited Edition Print Store.  We’ve each selected our favorite images from the trip to share with you all.

We have pledged that 50% of all of our sales will be donated to the EWCP.  Our ultimate goal is to raise $26,000 within two years.  With your help we’ll have no problem reaching that goal!  So check the website often, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds and sign up for our email newsletter – it’s time to take action!

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Disney Conservation Hero: Edriss Ebu

Edriss in the field working on the latest vaccine trial - Web Valley, Bale Mountains

When Dr. Claudio Sillero-Zubiri traveled to Ethiopia in 1986 to work on his PhD, I wonder if he knew that his teenage camp assistant would grow to play such a vital role in the yet to be founded Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP).

Edriss Ebu has poured his heart and soul into helping the Ethiopian Wolf, moving up the ranks from camp assistant to research assistant all the way to the top as the EWCP Programme Manager in the Bale Mountains.  His tireless dedication to conservation has just been recognized by the Walt Disney Company! He’s been awarded the prestigious Disney Conservation Hero Award.  We couldn’t be more proud!

Congratulations Edriss!!

Find out why the Wolf is so important to Edriss in this quick interview!

Edriss working side by side with Claudio, collecting data for the latest vaccine field trial - Web Valley, Bale Mountains.

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We are thrilled to let you know that our project has won not only the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Conservation Project but also the Editor’s Choice!!  A huge thank you to everyone who voted for us and to the Editor’s of!! Editor’s AND Readers’ Choice Best Conservation Project

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Last days

I had written the last blog post on my iPhone with the intent of posting it from the airport as we headed home.  Unfortunately somewhere between exiting the car and walking into the airport someone lifted my phone from my pocket.  All of my snap shots from the trip, most of my notes and the blog entry were lost.  I’m sorry to have taken so long to re-write it but here at last is that final entry from the field.

* * * * * * *

Our return from Rafu came with mixed emotions – our trip was coming to an end.  We had captured so many amazing photos, did we have the right to ask for more?  Yet the final pieces of the puzzle, the black coat pups fresh from the den and a perfect rodent capture still eluded us. Keenly aware that time was running out we huddled deeper into our coats as the icy wind tore through the open windows of the land cruiser.  It never seemed to matter which direction we faced, the wind always knew how to blast us.  The sun rose and the landscape turned pink.  Frost covered the plants, shimmered in the morning sun like hundreds of tiny diamonds.

A silent cue and the pack awoke and began to stretch but something was different this morning.  The male approached the mouth of the den and peered inside… I realized I was holding my breath as a tiny, black ear slowly and wobbly appeared.  PUPPIES!!!!  Will and I sprang to action, cameras clicking furiously, a moment later the pup disappeared back into the den and the pack left on patrol.  This brief glimpse gave us hope that we just might get to see the black coat pups before we had to leave.

That afternoon we headed to the den early, wanting to be certain we were in position and quiet when the pack returned.  As we drew close Musti called for us to stop… coming down the hill not more than 1,000 feet from the den were three figures.  They didn’t appear to know the den was there.  We watched through binoculars as the people and goats passed until we were satisfied that these were adults, not children who would be apt to disturb the den.  Only when we were certain the den would be safe did we continued into position and settled in to wait.

We didn’t have to wait long before mom returned.  She looked more wary and agitated than we had seen her on our previous visits.  Before long the male and sub-adult had joined her.  The excitement between the three was palpable.  We sat, eyes glued to the opening of the den willing the pups to come out and say hello, oblivious to the cold.  As we sat transfixed, a tiny head appeared, then another and another – four pups in total! All thought of composure within the vehicle was quickly abandon to high pitched squeals, giddy giggles and “omg, omg, omg – they are soooo cute!!!” At just three weeks old the puppies were tiny little balls of fluff.  Their ears were still slightly folded forward and their eyes were barely open.  One pup squinted in the afternoon light, walking haltingly toward the sub-adult.  Uncertain what this tiny thing was, the sub-adult put his head down to sniff… a tiny collision of noses sent both pup and sub-adult scrambling backward.  Mom reassured everyone and settled down to nurse the pups while dad and big brother kept close watch.  I admit that at this point I could barely see through my view finder because it was full of tears.  I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be with these four gems on their first day out of the den.

After nursing, mom began to pace again and we worried that our presence was putting her on edge, yet she never once looked toward us.  All of her focus seemed to be in the direction the herders had taken.  A few minutes later she scooped up a pup in her mouth and began to walk away from the den.  My heart dropped, she was moving the den and we didn’t have the time left in our trip to follow them to the new location and acclimate them to our presence again.  These were the photos we’d have, period, end of story. Except… BBC pack is a very good pack.  They hold territory rich in rodents and they are exceptional hunters.  The resulting product being four very round, deceivingly large pups.  After a few paces she had to put the pup down.  I held my breath.  She tried to pick the pup up again and could barely get her mouth around it. A few more paces and you could almost see the wheels turning – this wasn’t going to work.  A quick bath and then the pup was herded back into the den and spring cleaning began.  Dirt sprayed from the den, odd bits of rodent were pulled from hiding spots around the den and eaten.  Finally satisfied there was nothing left to attract trouble the pack settled in for a well deserved rest and we headed back to camp to download. It was amazing to see how much stronger the pups were the following morning and stronger still the next afternoon.  There was still a fair amount of wobbling but the play biting and tumbling we had witnessed in the far older Meggity and Tarura pups was already in evidence.  Mom showed off her hunting skills by bringing back a Stark’s hare – a rare treat that only the best hunters are able to capture.

Our final morning with the BBC pack had us both wondering how much trouble we would get into if we stayed another week and arrived home late for Christmas… in the end we decided 5 weeks and two broken cameras was enough, it was time to travel home.  As we watched the pack leave on morning patrol we were well pleased with the range of behavior, age and environment we had captured –  the only shot we were missing was a good rodent capture.  We turned the vehicle toward camp, our minds beginning to wander to the hot shower we knew waited for us in Dinsho that night.  Suddenly the BBC female appeared at the side of the road, as if she had been waiting a long time for us to show up.  She waited patiently as we maneuvered to the side of the road and pulled out our cameras – then, certain she had our full attention, she turned, gave a quite look over her shoulder as if to say “Check this out” and pounced.  Success!  She lifted a very large grass rat into the air and dispatched it with ease.  She then proceeded to show us every angle of the rat before consuming it.  Another look clearly told us  “NOW you can put the cameras away.”  That’s a wrap!


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Rebecca had told me that of all the places she visited on her previous trip to the Bale Mountains, Rafu was her favourite spot. As our excruciatingly slow horses plodded forward and Rafu gradually loomed into view, I didn’t have to ask why.

Rafu is an area where an ancient lava flow has eroded to form a spectacular field of towering rock pinnacles. Each pinnacle can be over 10m high and the tightly packed formations extend far into the distance.

Self portrait at Rafu

Self portrait at Rafu

Our camp site was nestled under a particularly impressive edifice that dwarfed our tents. Pinnacles surrounded our modest encampment, protecting us from the howling wind that had chilled us to the bone up on the plateau. The indignant chattering of hyrax and baboons echoed down from the from the rocks around us.

Nomadic families often graze their cattle and goats in the area and as a result rudimentary mud huts and shelters can be found hidden amongst the rocks. One such establishment became our cooking hut and made for a atmospheric (if rather smokey) place for us to enjoy our meals.

Our visit to Rafu coincided with the full moon. On the one hand, this was a disappointment as we would have loved to photograph the formations under a sky full of stars. On the other hand, the moon allowed us to take ethereal moonlit photographs of the landscape. As a result, we worked late into the night, exploring and photographing the abstract, moonlit shapes.

Sunrise and sunset were particularly spectacular and I often left an hour or so in advance to trek into the heart of the lava flow. It was particularly spooky climbing through the pinnacles in the darkness before sunrise, all alone and in the knowledge that leopards were prowling the area!

Wildlife was abundant and particularly photogenic in the context of the rocky surroundings. In addition to the hyrax and baboons, we also found klipspringers and a host of raptors. One of the most iconic birds in the region is the Lammergeier or bearded vulture. We spent a day trying to photograph these birds as they scavenged from the remains of a dead goat. The adults proved very shy but we got very close to a couple of subadults.

The three nights that we spent in Rafu flew past and by the end we were exhausted from hiking around both day and night. Thankfully our horses went much faster on the return leg, clearly happy that they were heading home. After reaching our camp on Sanetti, we headed down to Goba for a well-earned shower and a night in a bed… bliss 🙂

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Best Laid Plans…

Funny thing about plans in Ethiopia. No matter how well laid, they always change. We crawled out of our tents and were met with a beautiful clear sky. The air was crisp and cold but finally felt dry! We hatched our plan to slowly make our way down to Goba for fuel and our repaired spare, leaving plenty of time to scout for foraging wolves along the way. Perhaps we’ll even have time to head to Dinsho for a hot shower at the research station!!

As Will and I schemed over our coffee and hot porridge Musti stood silently aside. When we asked what he thought of the plan he said “We’ll discuss it.” HUH? When we pushed him he revealed that the tire we had changed just yesterday was now flat as a pancake. AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

The sat phone once again became useful. We reached one of Edriss’s sons and he got the message to his father – we weren’t going anywhere.

At this point I’d like to note that not once through this entire saga has Will uttered a single obscenity. Personally I have the mouth of a sailor and was muttering a whole string quietly to myself. I’m thinking of making it a goal to hear just ONE tiny little word slip from his lips. I’m not holding my breath… if being stuck in mud a total of 11 hours, three solid days of nasty, cold, damp rain and three flat tires in four days can’t elicit more than a slight downward turn of his lips I have no idea what it will take to get that one word.

Knowing that rescue was well at hand Will and I headed off in separate directions on foot to explore the lakes not far from camp. It really was a beautiful morning and by the time Edriss arrived we were both smiling with a few new images safely stored on our memory cards.

Off to town we went. The plan was to meet at the local garage where Chris would bring us a drum of petrol and a new tire and Edriss would have them look at the 4WD once again. At the last check point before town the LandRover Defender was right behind us. Will zipped through the city streets like an expert and arrived at the garage in no time at all. About half an hour later the Defender limped in behind us. It had thrown the suspension spring. Vehicles really take a beating here in Ethiopia. I was amazed that this garage could fix the vehicle – men laying in mud mixed thickly with grease using broken, half repaired tools. The next time my mechanic with all the latest tools and technology and his clean cement floor complains it will take him days to fix my car, I think I might show him a shot of what these guys have to work with.

To save time we decided to forgo the 4WD fix and just stick with roads we knew the truck could handle in 2WD. Chris brought us two new tires and we headed off to the tire store to get them installed. So really… the tire store is a flat area with a couple of guys, an air hose that has been repaired so often you can’t tell the original color of the hose and a few hand tools. The boss is a small, wiry man with the strength of 15! He had a large truck he was working on and he threw the huge tires around like they were made of styrofoam. They didn’t have any jacks of their own so they were limited to working one wheel at a time with our tiny, mud covered jack. The 30 minute estimate turned into 2 hours and the two Ferenji made for some interesting entertainment for passers-by.

Some folks just wanted to practice their English. “Hello. What is your name.” Others wanted money. It was hard to refuse them but we didn’t want to encourage a culture of begging. When I returned home in February I donated money to a charity which was digging wells in remote villages. This time I’ll look for one that helps the schools or perhaps a woman’s shelter.

The last was perhaps both the cutest and saddest was a young man around 16 or 17 who approached and struck up a conversation. “I would like to go to America. Maybe I could go back with you? I’d make a fine strong husband!” He looked crestfallen when I explained while I was flattered, I’m already married and it just wouldn’t be possible. A few moments later he was happy again, laughing and smiling with his friends.

Our tires finally fixed and a full tank of petrol we were ready for a nice lunch of Tibs. Musti brought us to his favorite spot and we picked up our mood over the tasty morsels of meat. One last stop at the telecom office to top up on internet credit and we headed back to the garage for our barrel of spare fuel. Once that was safely (?) secured in the back of our truck we headed back up the pothole ridden road to camp. Along the way we reached a particularly bad section of road. Two Isuzu trucks were pulled off, one in either direction and the men were shoveling mud and trying to fill the deep ruts with rocks. They refused to let us pass. Musti had a few heated words with them and Will measured the depth of the water and determined we could make it across even with the 2WD. Eventually the men stepped aside and we made it through. Musti explained later that the men thought we were Park officials. They were angry, “See what you’ve done to our road? You should let the Roadworks Authority fix it!” It took a bit of time to convince them we were only there for the wolves and had nothing to do with the park.

The sun was low when we reached camp and we were able to make use of the last bit of light to photograph some beautiful lobelia trees. Will is getting quite the collection! When we finally pulled into camp Mamoush was waiting for us with another of his delicious soups. As an added bonus we got fried bananas and french fries for dessert! Bellies full and warm we head off to bed to dream of the wolves we will photograph tomorrow.

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12 Things We’ve Learned in Ethiopia

1. The best path is not always directly in front of you.

2. Water from a spring will give you an immediate brain freeze when trying to wash your hair.

3. There is no privacy in Ethiopia. No matter how far you sneak off for a “quiet moment” there WILL be someone watching you.

4. COFFEE!! Amazing!!!! Need we say more?

5. The sign may SAY Internet access but that doesn’t mean the power, computers or dial up line will be working when you stop by or even that month entirely.

6. Fuel (petrol, gas) can be hard to find – a wise person stocks up when they find some!

7. Drivers/cars – finding them isn’t difficult, finding one that works properly, almost impossible.

8. There is a finite number of days you can convince yourself that you are eating different meals with different pasta shapes before you need to drive to town for some meat. Tibs is ambrosia after two weeks of tuna pasta.

9. Anyone you meet here isn’t a stranger for long.

10. Mole rats like cloudy days.

11. The minute you start to do laundry it will turn grey and rainy even if you start on a sunny, sunny day.

12. A good guide is worth his weight in gold – a GREAT guide is priceless! Thank you Muzeyen and Musti!!

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Stuck Again!

After a cold, damp night spent sleeping on the Sanetti Plateau (this was the first night my hot water bottle was stone cold in the AM) we awoke to the thrum of rain hitting our shelters. Rather than sit in camp waiting for the rain to end we decided to spend the day on a recon trip to the Harenna Forest. We were keen to see the forest hogs and Bale monkey who call the forest home.

The road through Sanetti is managed by two different entities, the Ethiopian Road Works Authority and the Bale Mountains National Park. The two groups are currently at odds – the Road Authority wants to continue to use dirt and rocks mined within the park to repair the road and the Park wants to prevent any further damage to the fragile ecosystem. After a particularly wet rainy season the road is riddled with potholes, washouts, broken bridges and deep ruts made by the large Isuzu trucks that barrel through at incredible speed. Not to mention how slick and slippery the red earth gets when it’s wet… a fact it would have been good to remember later in the day.

Will did a particularly good job getting us safely down the Harenna Enscarpment on this trying road in fog as think as anyone from London or San Francisco has ever seen. Soon we were reveling in the thick, lush rainforest. We explored the road through the forest for a few hours before turning around and heading toward home.

Shortly after we made our turn around we encountered a group of olive baboon. We managed to get several nice portraits before we realized one of the tires was hissing. Our second flat tire in three days. At this point we had the drill down. Lift the car, place some rocks, lift the car again and swap the tires. It went pretty painlessly and we were in high spirits when we decided to stop for a quick picnic beside the river.

As the road was pretty narrow and the Isuzu trucks tend to barrel around corners without really looking we thought it best to pull off the road and it was a pretty clear track down to the rivers edge.

We thought the 4WD had been fixed the day before in Goba… we thought wrong. After a lovely little picnic by the side of the river we piled back into the truck with thoughts of returning to Goba to buy fuel and replace the spare tire. No such luck. Remember how slippery I said that red dirt gets when it’s wet…. Our back tires just spun and spun. There was no way we were ever going to make it up that hill with just 2WD.

We tried everything we could think of: a running start, piling dry pebbles from the road above, using the weeds at hand to try and give some traction… nothing worked. Eventually we gave up and tried to use the sat phone to contact Anne-Marie in hopes Chris or Edriss could come save us. We were met with frustration – reception in the forest isn’t all that good and by the time I found a sweet spot to place the calls, the local cell service went down. After around an hour of trying we managed to reach Edriss and he said he was on his way… hooray! Only trouble was he was at least 4 hours away. We kept trying to flag down trucks or land rovers to help us but most wouldn’t even slow down. So we settled in to wait. It just so happened that Will had a copy of Jurassic Park on his iPad and so we watched that surrounded by the same scenery in the movie – at times we couldn’t tell if the bird calls were coming from the iPad or the birds in the forest outside the truck.

I caught myself jumping at one point when the bushes began to sway and shake… I half expected a T-Rex to appear in front of us… instead a large male baboon popped out of the shrubbery.

We came close to beating our previous record of being stuck for 6 hours… not a record we thought we would be contesting so soon but eventually rescue came in the form of a husband and wife traveling home through the forest in a good strong Toyota. They took pity on us and stopped – with the promise of $300 Birr (~$18USD) they had us dragged back up the hill in less than 10 minutes time. Free, free at last!!

We began to limp home and meet up with Edriss after about 20 minutes. He grabbed our flat spare and followed us back up to the safety of Sanetti and our dinner. With any luck the weather will break tomorrow and we can get back to the business of photographing wolves!

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