Today I bring you the rarest canid and the most endangered carnivore in the world.
The Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) has also been known as the Red Jackal, but its larger size and distinct coloring set it apart from the smaller canids known as jackals. It can be found only in the Ethiopian Highlands, and then only at altitudes of 3,000 to 4,500 meters. It's estimated that there are currently only about 440 individuals left, a slight majority of which can be found in the Bale Mountains. Indigenous names for the Ethiopian Wolf include Ky kebero (Red Jackal) and Walgie (Trickster) in Amharic, and Jeedala fardaa (Horse's Jackal) and Arouaye (Reddish) in Oromo.
Ethiopian Wolves are similar in size to the Coyote, reaching up to 40 inches (102 cm) in body length, and weighing 43 pounds (19.3 Kg). Males are, on average, about 20% larger than females. It has longer legs than its smaller Jackal relatives. Although many canids of this size, or near about, are generalist hunters, the Ethiopian Wolf are extremely specialized, feeding only on Afroalpine rodents like big-headed mole rats, grass rats, black-clawed brush-furred rats and occasionally highland hares. They have also been known to feed on goose eggs and goslings. Ethiopian Wolves are most active during the day.
There are two recognized subspecies of Ethiopian Wolf:
- Canis simensis simensis (Found in the Semien Mountains, Wollo highlands, Mount Guna and Guassa Menz)
- Canis simensis citernii (Found in the Bale Mountains and Arsi)
They live in family groups of up to 20 individuals, but the most common pack size is six. Packs are formed by males and females, though only one female breeds, while the other females' reproduction is suppressed. The hierarchy of the pack is established through displays of dominance and subordination. Territories sometimes overlap and are aggressively defended when two packs encounter each other. In these cases, the smaller pack will typically give way. Territories depend on the size of the pack, the amount of available prey, and the presence of pups.
In order to avoid inbreeding, the breeding female will only accept the advances of an unrelated breeding male, or a male from another pack. After a gestation period of 60 days, female Ethiopian Wolves will give birth to a litter of 2 to 6 pups. Dens are used only for birthing and nursing - when the pups are weaned at 10 weeks, the pack will sleep out in the open during the night.
Ethiopian Wolves are listed as Endangered by the IUCN, and their greatest threats are disease from domesticated dogs, conflict with humans, habitat loss from agricultural expansion and overgrazing, and hybridization with domestic dogs. They are officially protected under Ethiopian law and campaigns to vaccinate both domestic dogs and Ethiopian Wolves against rabies.