An Ethiopian Wolf stands on the highlands of the Sanetti Plateau in the Bale mountains of Ethiopia. Conservationists are trying to preserve their environment and protect them from diseases that have ravaged the population, such as rabies and canine distemper.
In the Bale Mountains, the wolves live on the Sanetti plateau, "the Roof of Africa", at an average altitude of 4000 metres, crowned by Tullu Deemtu (pictured, background), the second highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4377 metres.
Conservationists such as Professor Claudio Sillero are working to protect the wolves. "These wolves are almost unknown and yet they are three times rarer than giant pandas" he says.
Prof. Sillero is a zoology professor at Oxford University and founder & director of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme.
A team of wolf monitors in the Bale Mountains park spend around twenty days in every month tracking and observing the wolves. "In some of the smaller populations we have 25 or 30 wolves so it's not unreasonable to suggest an entire population in one area could vanish from disease" says Chris Gordon, technical coordinator for the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme.
Around half of Ethiopia's wolves live in the Bale Mountains National Park, one of seven Afro-alpine habitats. The Ethiopian wolf lives only on mountains above 3000 metres and its survival is closely linked to the Afro-alpine ecosystems.
The giant mole-rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus) is endemic to the Bale mountains and also listed as endangered by the IUCN. It is the main prey of the Ethiopian wolf.
The wolves, largely diurnal animals, spend much of their day hunting rodents such as the giant mole-rat.
With a population growth of around 2.13%, Ethiopians are forced to seek out more land in which to grow crops and graze their cattle. People living in the Bale Mountains take their cattle and livestock up into the national park, which at present, the park authorities do little to control. This is endangering the habitat and ecosystems that the wolves rely on to survive.
The major threat to wolf populations is rabies, largely transmitted by domestic dogs, whose numbers are increasing with a growing human population using the wolves' habitat. The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme has vaccinated up to 68,000 dogs in an attempt to control the risk.
The wolves are agile, moving elegantly and effortlessly across the high-altitude landscape.
Part of the work of conservationists is to monitor the surviving wolves' health. Here, a wolf from the Badagassa pack limps down a rocky slope, its back-right leg injured and unable to take any weight.
The population of Ethiopia's wolves is currently stable, but until widespread vaccination against rabies and canine-distemper is implemented, and the destruction of their habitat by increasing human activity is controlled, Africa's most endangered carnivore remains a delicate species.