Managing disease in Ethiopian wolves

Will Burrard-Lucas
Published: 02 November 2022
Last edited: 23 November 2022
remove_red_eye 1167 Views


Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) are Africa’s most endangered carnivore, with approximately 500 individuals remaining along the country’s Afroalpine habitat, approximately half of which are found in the Bale Mountains. While habitat loss is a major threat to species survival, infectious disease epizootics have had serious impacts on wolf populations. Since 1992, the wolves in the Bale Mountains have faced eight major outbreaks from rabies and canine distemper viruses. Outbreaks are prompted by introduction of the viruses from domestic dogs. The density and social nature of the wolves allow for rapid virus transmission amongst and between packs; concerningly, outbreaks have resulted in extinctions of entire packs. To effectively manage this threat, the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme and its partners have developed and applied a comprehensive conservation strategy, including preventive and reactive vaccination and disease monitoring in line with a One Health approach.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tundra or montane grassland
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Not listed
One Health
Outreach & communications
Science and research
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Wildlife Health Surveillance (to capture biodiversity, health, disease, and pathogen surveillance)
Species Monitoring and Research
Species Disease Early warning systems
Species Conservation Planning
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
Outbreak investigation and access to laboratory
One Health
Animal health
Biodiversity-health nexus
Good governance of landscapes
Neglected tropical diseases, emerging infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance
Ecosystem loss


Bale Mountain National Park, Oromia, Ethiopia


The presence of unvaccinated domestic dogs is compounded by habitat loss, bringing people, domestic animals, and wildlife closer together and creating opportunities for disease transmission. 


  • Ethiopian wolves
  • Communities living in/around landscape
  • Other wildlife and domestic animals present in/around the ecosystem


How do the building blocks interact?

The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation strategy involves many components and stakeholders. The disease management aspect has a foundation of scientific evidence and awareness, which has informed an integrated disease management strategy, including detection and vaccination. As rabies presents a serious threat to the health of humans, domestic animals, and wildlife alike, this solution reinforces how conservation can generate important One Health benefits.


As part of the Ethiopian wolf conservation strategy, an integrated disease management strategy for rabies and canine distemper has involved numerous key partners, including the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and protected area managers, local governments, and communities. The plan includes five components: controlling diseases in reservoir dogs, reducing dog-wolf contact, increasing capacity to detect outbreaks, vaccinating wolves as a preventative measure and, (as a last resort) emergency vaccination of wolves in response to a confirmed epizootic. Specific indicators are tracked to continually evaluate the impact of the strategy, including the number of packs orally vaccinated against rabies, frequency of free-roaming dogs within wolf habitat, number of district and zonal staff trained and equipped to conduct wildlife post-mortems, and the number of villages reached by awareness campaigns. The EWCP routinely vaccinates 3,000-4,000 dogs a year against canine distemper and rabies in the settlements around wolf habitat in the Bale Mountains, to reduce the risk of them transmitting the virus to Ethiopian wolves, livestock and people. An overall indicator of the success of this work has been the down-listing from critically endangered to endangered on the IUCN Red List, based on an increase in wolf population numbers.

Contributed by

cybulska_42350's picture

Claudio Sillero EcoHealth Alliance