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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Rabies threatens critically endangered Ethiopian wolves
In the last few weeks there has been an outbreak of rabies among the Ethiopian wolves in the Bale Mountains, home to the most important population of this endangered species.

The current wolf population in Bale was estimated at 300 (of the global total of 500) wolves. To date, 19 wolves from 7 packs in the Web valley (within the Bale area) are known to have died. The Web valley is a critical core area that harboured an estimated 80 wolves prior to this crisis.

Wolves in the Bale Mountains are continually monitored by staff of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) and all leading authorities in the area are attempting to trace the transmission route and spread of the disease, find dead and/or sick animals, innoculate all unvaccinated domestic dogs, and interview local communities.

On Friday the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA confirmed the diagnosis of rabies and there is concern that the recent recovery in wolf numbers may have increased the risk of a fresh outbreak of disease.

A disease epidemic, diagnosed as rabies coupled with canine distemper, in 1991-92 killed 3/4 of wolves in the Web valley and 2/3 of the known Bale population at the time. There are grave concerns that the current outbreak may become an epidemic that will spread throughout the whole Bale population and cause a similar significant decline of what is already a critically endangered species.