Land Rover Born Free 2 banner

EWCP history

EWCP history

1983 Bale Mountains Research Project starts with support from the New York Zoological Society

1987 A research project on the wolves biology is started by WildCRU, University of Oxford

1990 First confirmed rabies outbreak results in a massive decline of the Bale Mountains wolf population

1994 A doctoral study entitled “Behavioural ecology of the Ethiopian wolf” is published

1995 The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme is established


            Fist IUCN action plan

            EWCP starts



Little was known about the biology of Ethiopian wolves until the 1980s, when the Bale Mountains Research Project was set up, publicized the wolf's plight, started a regular monitoring programme, and supported the detailed four-year field study that followed (Sillero-Zubiri, 1994). Human encroachment, triggered by political instability, started to affect wolf habitats in the Bale Mountains National Park, but it was a severe rabies epidemic that ultimately revealed to the world the critical status of the species. In the early 1990s, a combination of rabies and shooting (triggered by political unrest), decimated most of the study packs in the Web Valley and Sanetti Plateau populations, and mainly as a result of this drastic decline, the species was re-classified by the IUCN Red List from Endangered (Ginsberg & Macdonald, 1990) to Critically Endangered in 1994 (Sillero-Zubiri & Marino, 2008). This new status reflected the extremely high risk of the species going extinct in the wild. In 1994, the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group produced the first action plan for the Ethiopian wolf (Sillero-Zubiri & Macdonald, 1997), with a detailed strategy for the conservation and management of remaining wolf populations. This plan advocated for immediate action on three fronts – education, wolf population monitoring, and rabies control in domestic dogs – to conserve the Afroalpine ecosystem and its top predator. As a result, the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) was established in Bale in 1995, by Oxford University in partnership with Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA, then EWCO).  When in the late 1990s the Northern highlands finally became accessible for exploration, a comprehensive survey revealed wolf extant populations in every sizeable Afroalpine relict, with the exception of Mt. Choke (Gojjam) (Marino, 2000; Ash, 2000; Marino, 2003). The new vision stressed the global importance of the Bale Mountains population, as well as the need to protect the other threatened, small populations. In 1999, the EWCP and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation organized a Population and Habitat Viability Analysis workshop in Bale (Sillero-Zubiri et al., 2000). In 2000, the EWCP expanded to the northern highlands, widening the use of the Ethiopian wolf as a flagship species for the conservation of Ethiopia’s unique Afroalpine ecosystem.

By that time, ten years after the rabies epizootics, the Bale populations affected by disease had recovered fully to pre-epizootic levels, showing demographic resilience in the apparent absence of further epizootics (Marino et al., 2006). When the Red List status was reviewed in 2004, the species was downlisted to Endangered, following the IUCN’s criteria based on demographic variables and population trends (i.e. < 250 mature individuals in the population, continuing decline in population size, and < 250 mature individuals in each subpopulation) (Sillero-Zubiri & Marino, 2008). Clearly, the Ethiopian wolf is more restricted now than in the past, and with less than 500 adult individuals surviving, this distinctive carnivore remains the rarest canid in the world and the most endangered African carnivore.