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Rabies Outbreak Threatens World’s Rarest Wolf

Rabies threatens the Ethiopian Wolf with extinction. Photo: Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program.

Rabies threatens the Ethiopian Wolf with extinction. Photo Source: EWCP.

A rabies outbreak could fast track the extinction of the Ethiopian Wolf – the world’s rarest wolf.

With only 500 remaining, the Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) was already threatened with extinction. But now, there’s a real danger that extinction could come faster than previously thought. 

The rabies threat comes from the dogs the Oromo people use to herd livestock. In the Bale Mountains National Park, the Ethipian Wolves live in close contact with these people and their dogs, and the virus has emerged once again. 

Rabies is the major killer of Ethiopian wolves in Bale.

In 1990 and 1991, it killed off whole wolf packs and accounted for a population decline of up to 75%. Again in 2003-04 the virus spread across this same local population, leading to a 76% decline.

“These preciously rare wolves can ill-afford it another massive die-off.” said Dr Claudio Sillero of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).

Vaccinating the Wolves and Dogs

The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) has been protecting the wolves in the Bale Mountains for 20 years. Unfortunately, despite efforts to vaccinate the wolves and dogs, the rabies virus continues to emerge every so often.

“Despite the efforts of our veterinary team, who vaccinate thousands of dogs in Bale’s villages every year, the virus has raised its ugly head again and jumped into the wolf population,” said Dr Claudio, who is also Director of EWCP.

“Fifteen wolves have died to date, and laboratory tests have confirmed our worst fears that we are facing another potentially devastating outbreak. If left unchecked, rabies is likely to kill over two-thirds of all wolves in Bale’s Web Valley, and spread further, with wolves dying horrible deaths and numbers dwindling to perilously low levels.” he continued.

Vaccination – A Difficult Task

An Ethiopian Wolf being released following vaccination. Photo: Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program.

An Ethiopian Wolf being released following vaccination. Photo Source: EWCP.

Vaccinating the Ethiopian Wolf is a difficult task, according to Dr Sillero.

“Tracking and vaccinating these animals is a far from easy task,” he said. 

“Our veterinary team are travelling on horse-back and camping out in remote mountains above 12,000 feet with temperatures falling as low as -15°C. But the first three weeks of the intervention have gone well with the team vaccinating to date forty-eight wolves in eleven vital packs that connect the Web Valley population with other wolves in Bale. The objective is to secure a ‘cordon sanitaire‘ of safely vaccinated wolf packs which will prevent the virus reaching other packs living further afield in the Bale Mountains” he continued.

Threats to the Ethiopian Wolf

Rabies is just one of the many threats to the Ethiopian Wolf. According to EWCP, the major threats to the wolf are:

  • Loss and fragmentation of the Afroalpine habitat: High-altitude subsistence agriculture and overgrazing; road construction and sheep farming
  • Diseases: Particularly rabies, transmitted by domestic dogs
  • Conflicts with humans: Poisoning and persecution in reprisal for livestock losses; road kills
  • Hybridisation with domestic dogs

The Ethiopian Wolf (scientific name: Canis simensis) is also known as Abyssinian wolf, red jackal, red fox, Simien fox or Simien jackal, due to the previous uncertainty about its taxonomic position. It is currently thought that the species belongs to the genus Canis, even though it looks superficially like a fox.

Conservation Effort Begins to Save Tasmanian Devil from Imminent Extinction

Tasmanian Devil could be extinct within 10 to 20 years. Photo Menna Jones.

Tasmanian Devil could be extinct within 10 to 20 years. Photo Menna Jones.

Australian scientists have joined forces in an attempt to save the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) – a carnivorous marsupial –  from extinction.   

Previous research has found that the Tasmanian Devil is likely to be extinct within 10 to 20 years due to an infectious facial cancer.

Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) is a parasitic cancer that appears to be affecting the majority of Tasmanian Devils, was first discovered in 1995. Since then, over 60% of the Tasmanian Devil population has been wiped out. In some areas, DFTD killed as much as 90% of the Tasmanian Devil population within 10 years.

The project, led by University of Adelaide zoologist Jeremy Austin, will spend the next three years developing a conservation program to save the Tasmanian Devil the deadly disease.

“We have lost over half our devils in the past 10 years, with an estimated population of 20,000 to 50,000 mature devils left. Extinction within the next 20 years is a real possibility unless we find a vaccine, eradicate the disease and establish captive colonies,” Dr Austin said.

Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) threatens to wipe out the Tasmanian Devil population within 20 years. Photo: Wayne McLean.

This Tasmanian Devil has Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), a disease that threatens to wipe out the Tasmanian Devil population within 20 years. Photo: Wayne McLean.

Dr Austin’s team will analyse genetic material from devil populations to understand the origin, spread and impact of the facial cancer.

“We will be looking to develop rapid genetic testing techniques to pick devils that are resistant to the disease and can be used for breeding in captivity,” he said.

Dr Austin said that Tasmanian Devils are more prone to the infectious cancer because they have low levels of genetic diversity and a chromosomal mutation unique among carnivorous mammals.

“We need to establish whether the low levels of genetic diversity are due to recent human impacts or a long-term historical pattern. We also need to look at how the cancer is affecting surviving populations and identify individuals that may be resistant to the disease,” he said.

About the Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial endemic to Australia. It has been extinct from the mainland for over 400 years, and is now only found in the state of Tasmania – an island 240 kilometers off the south eastern side of the mainland.

In the 1990s, the Tasmanian Devil population stood at between 130,000 and 150,000. Now, current estimates place the population at between 20,000 and 50,000 (including 10,000-25,000 mature individuals).

Given the recent mortality rate, this figure is likely to decline substantially over the coming years, until the disease is eradicated or a vacinne is developed.

The Tasmanian Devil is currently listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.

Critically Endangered Bat Returns from Near Extinction

A giant bat, previously listed as critcally endangered on the IUCN Red List, has made a comeback from almost certain extinction in the tropical island of Zanzibar Tanzania.

The Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi) was first listed on the Red List as Endangered in 1990. Then in 1996, it was upgraded to Critically Endangered.

Around that time Fauna & Flora International (FFI), in partnership with Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry (DCCFF), began a program to save the Pemba flying fox from extinction. Their program included an extensive education campaign, establishment of environmental clubs to protect roosts close to villages, meetings with hunters and key decision makers, and ongoing monitoring of the bat population.

The latest survey, initiated by FFI and carried out by Janine Robinson for the University of East Anglia, has found that there are now at least 22,000 Pemba flying foxes, but there could be as many as 35,600. 

As a result of the conservation program, the bat is no longer hunted down. In fact, many locals are joining community-led groups in an effort to help save the Pemba flying fox. 

The giant fruit bat, which has a wing span of up to 5.5 feet, was once considered a delicacy. As a result, it was almost hunted to extinction.  Traditionally, the Pemba flying fox was hunted using simple traps on long sticks. More recently though, shotguns were being used to kill the bats.

Because of the rising population of the Pemba flying fox, in 2004 it was downgraded to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. And now that the population is thriving once again, FFI have now closed the project “confident in the dedication of the Forestry Department and local communities to protect this charismatic species”.

2 New Species of Gecko Discovered

Two rare species of gecko have been discovered and identified as new species in Australia.

Scientists discovered the geckos recently during expeditions to Northwest Cape and the southern deserts of Western Australia and South Australia.

Geckos are small to medium sized lizards which are found in warm climates around the world. They are known for their ability to stick to vertical surfaces, and for their high pitched “chirping” sounds during interactions with other geckos.

The newly described species are known as the Cape Range Gecko (scientific name: Diplodactylus capensis) and the Southern Sandplain Gecko (scientific name: Lucasium bungabinna).

Cape Range Gecko

Cape Range Gecko - Male

Cape Range Gecko - Male. Photo: Western Australian Museum

The Cape Range Gecko was named after Cape Range in the north-western part of Australia. It had previously been mistaken for a Pilbara species, but it is more closely related to another species – the closest of which is 600 kilometers to the south of Cape Range.

WA Museum curator of herpetology Dr Paul Doughty said “The Cape Range is made up of an ancient block of limestone which has created a unique habitat to which the species has adapted”

The Cape Range Gecko is characterised by a distinctive broken stripe on its back, larger head and reddish coloration which matches the color of the rocks on the Cape Range.

“Little is known of this new species and we are still in the process of describing other new species of reptiles from this special area of Western Australia.” said Dr Doughty.

Southern Sandplain Gecko

Southern Sandplain Gecko - Male. Photo: Western Australian Museum

Southern Sandplain Gecko - Male. Photo: Western Australian Museum

The Southern Sandplain Gecko occurs in the southern deserts in Western Australia and South Australia, north of the Nullarbor Plain. 

The species has smaller toe pads than other geckos, and it has been observed climbing low shrubs.

The scientific name ‘bungabinna’ is derived from the Bungalbin Sandplain in Western Australia and the Yellabinna Sandplain in South Australia where it occurs.

The Research

The research was carried out by scientists from the Western Australian Museum and South Australian Museum. The project was funded by a grant from the Australia and Pacific Science Foundation.

Is this Mystery Cat a New Species?

Is this a new species of cat? Or is it the rare Andean Cat or the Pampas Cat?

Is this a new species of cat? Or is it the rare Andean Cat or the Pampas Cat?

World Land Trust (WLT) has reported a possible new species of cat in Fundación Jocotoco (FJ), Ecuador.

The cat is thought to be of the same (yet to be described) species as one seen two years ago in Peru. 

The cat was seen and photographed by Aldo Sornoza of FJ, who was helping with the construction of a new visitors’ lodge on the Jorupe Reserve. 

If this is the same cat as seen in Peru, it would be the first known sighting in Ecuador.

It’s quite possible however, that it is not a new species. 

Andean Cat?

One possibility is that it’s an Andean Cat (Oreailurus jacobita), which is one of the most endangered wild cats on Earth. Also known as the “Andean Mountain Cat” and “Mountain Cat”, this species has been listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) since 2002.  

Lou Jost of Fundación EcoMinga, an Ecuadorian partner of the WLT has seen the Andean Cat twice. When presented with Sornoza’s photo of the new cat, Jost commented:

“The ground color is very similar. However I didn’t see any strong patterns on the legs, like this one has, though I would not have seen that from the angles I had (just the back and sides of the animal running through dense vegetation, both times). The elevations of my sightings were very high, around 2800-3000 m, and very wet, completely different from Jorupe. I could easily imagine that there is a new species of cat endemic to the Tumbesian zone of SW Ecuador and NW Peru.”

Pampas Cat?

But according to, ecologist Jim Sanderson, who has spent years studying the Andean Cat, doesn’t think this is one. Instead, Sanderson believes that it is a Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocolo), another cat species he has studied for years.

“The cat shown in the photograph…is the lovely Pampas cat found in this region. Pampas cats show a variety of morphs depending upon where they occur. In Brazil they are all brown for instance and in the Andes they are spotted, have a pink nose, and striking black lines across the forelegs” he said.

The Pampas Cat, also known as the Chilean Pampa Cat, has been listed by IUCN as “Near Threatened” by IUCN since 2002.

Regardless, it’s Still a Significant Find

Whether it’s the Andean Cat, the Pampas Cat, or a new species, this is still a significant find. So, as WLT said… “we are awaiting with anticipation further news on this sighting.”

WWF Launches Holiday Gift Catalog

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched its first ever holiday gift catalog on Thursday, enabling us to choose gifts that will support WWF conservation projects around the world. 

The catalog, which is available online and in full color brochure, includes gifts such as:

  • crafts
  • apparel and accessories
  • animal adoptions
  • gift adoption cards  

All animal adoptions come with a formal adoption certificate, a color photo of the adopted animal and a species description card. In addition to these items, adoptions of $100 or more come with a soft animal plush representative of the species adopted, a WWF gift box and a custom frame which displays the adoption certificate and photo.

In addition to the gift package sent in the mail, all online donations of any amount come with a free online premium package, which includes a personalized electronic adoption certificate, screensavers, wallpaper and AIM icons all customized to the animal adopted

Prices for most gifts range from between $25 and $250. But if you’re feeling extra generous you could purchase an “extraordinary gift”… 

Extraordinary Gifts

Feeling generous? Extraordinary gifts range from between $1,000 and $3,500,000 (yes, that’s 3.5 million dollars!) 

Extraordinary gifts enable you to contribute directly to a WWF program or project. For example, you could choose to: 

  • endow a long-term solution to protecting endangered tigers in key tiger protection areas around the world
  • relocate bison or rhinos to a wildlife protected area 
  • purchase a set of sea turtle or pygmy elephant tracking collars to monitor their populations 
  • outfit anti-poaching patrols 
  • provide turtle-friendly fishing gear
  • help indigenous communities develop sustainable livelihoods
  • and much more

Terry Macko, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of World Wildlife Fund said “Supporting WWF this holiday season by giving the gift of nature conservation is a unique and meaningful way to demonstrate compassion and thoughtfulness into next year and for years to come,”

“WWF donations through the holiday gift program help address urgent conservation needs.”

By purchasing a gift from the WWF holiday catalog, you can help save some of the most endangered species from extinction.

You can access the WWF holiday catalog at

Notorious Elephant Poacher Gets Jail

A notorious elephant poacher has received a five year jail sentence for killing eight elephants.

The poaching occurred in Korup National Park in south-west Cameroon, where Akah Job was found to be in possession of nine elephant tusks weighing about 8kg, elephant meat worth about 15kg, and eight elephant tails. Guns, cartridges and wire snares were also seized.

The poacher was caught by game guards of the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) supported by security officials from the gendarmerie, after a tip-off. But before they could catch him, they had to trek for two days to the remote village of Esukutan where the poacher was located.

The court trial was heard in the small town of Mundemba, which is the nearest town to Korup National Park.

WWF Welcomes the Sentence

WWF, the global conservation organization, welcomed the sentence, saying that it could provide a lifeline for wildlife in and around an African rainforest that survived the Ice Age.

“We welcome this new verdict and hope it will deter other poachers and their accomplices from decimating wildlife and above all protect rare and vital species from extinction for the benefit of the people around Korup National Park and mankind as a whole,” said Dr Martin Tchamba, Technical Manager, WWF-Cameroon.

About Korup National Park

The Korup National Park, which was established in 1986, is in western Cameroon and lies against the Nigerian border.

The park contains 1259 km² of tropical rainforest and is known for its high biological diversity, including more than 50 species of large mammals. The park also contains the largest number of species of trees in any African rainforest. 

WWF say this about Korup National Park:

One reason for its importance is that it is in an area which remained rain forest throughout the drying-out periods during the Ice Age when icecap advance caused severe global cooling which caused much tropical rainforest to be replaced by semi-xerophytic scrub or savannah.

Endangered Bird Rediscovered on Island After 106 Years

Scientists have rediscovered the endangered Wetar Ground-dove (Gallicolumba hoedtii) on the island of which it was named – Wetar Island in Indonesia.

The bird has not been officially recorded on the island since 1902, and until this discovery, scientists were uncertain about whether it even still existed on the island.

The dove, which has been classified as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, has only been seen a handful of times since 1902. Apart from those sightings, which were all in neighbouring island Timor, the bird hasn’t been seen anywhere else in the world. 

The great part about this rediscovery is that many Wetar Ground-doves were found on the island. At one stage, the researchers observed as many as 30 – 40 Wetar Ground-doves feeding on fallen fig (Ficus) fruits. This represents the largest congregation of Wetar Ground-doves ever recorded.

Project “Wetar Ground-Dove”

The rediscovery wasn’t exactly an accident. It occurred as part of a conservation project called “Wetar Ground-dove”. 

Wetar Ground-dove project is a collaborative project between Columbidae Conservation; Charles Darwin University, Australia; and the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program

The first major task of the project was to seek out the threatened species to confirm whether or not it still existed on the island.

Now that they know the bird is still present on the island, the scientists will carry out further research to determine its distribution, habitat requirements, and any threats it may be facing.

One threat could come in the form of development. The island is not currently protected. The project will be pushing for the establishment of a protected area on the island. 

To achieve this, they will identify a potential location for a protected area and provide justification, in collaboration with other leading wildlife conservation NGOs, to lobby for governmental support for the establishment of a protected area.

Coming Soon: Red List of Threatened Ecosystems

Wildlife Trust, an international conservation organization, has announced that the IUCN has accepted its motion to create the first ever criteria for a Red List of threatened ecosystems. 

The motion was put forward at the recent World Conservation Congress in Barcelona by the Wildlife Trust Alliance.

What this means is that, standardized criteria for categorizing terrestrial ecosystems would be established. It would allow ecosystems to be assessed in the same way threatened species are assessed for the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

“Creating a Red List for endangered ecosystems goes hand-in-hand with the need to protect at-risk species that live in such areas as the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest, South Africa’s grasslands, and Indonesian lowland tropical forest,” said Dr. Mary C. Pearl, President of Wildlife Trust.

And Dr. Andrew Taber, Executive Vice President of Programs for Wildlife Trust, says “Helping society better understand levels of risks to the ecosystems we depend on opens the door to creating sustainable solutions we can all adopt”.

Source: Wildlife Trust

Almost 17,000 Species are Threatened with Extinction

According to the latest IUCN red list, almost 17,000 of the world’s plant and animal species are facing extinction. 

Of the 44,838 plant and animal species evaluated by IUCN, 38% have been catalogued as threatened with extinction.

The IUCN red list, which is the international benchmark for the threat level of animals and plants, has recently been updated to produce the 2008 version. And things don’t look too good.

Things look particularly grim for the world’s mammals. Of the 5,487 known mammal species, 1,139 are facing extinction. Marine mammals are at most risk, with more than one in three facing extinction.

Furthermore, IUCN has been unable to classify a threat level for 836 mammals due to lack of data. This means that the number of threatened mammals is probably higher than the reported 21 percent, and could be as high as 36 percent, according to IUCN scientist Jan Schipper. 


Here are some statistics which outline the number of species evaluated, and the percentage of those that are under threat from extinction:

Vertebrates Number
of species evaluated
threatened, as % of species evaluated
Mammals 5,488 21%
Birds 9,990 12%
Reptiles 1,385 31%
Amphibians 6,260 30%
Fishes 3,481 37%
Subtotal 26,604 22%
Invertebrates Number
of species evaluated
threatened, as % of species evaluated
Insects 1,259 50%
Molluscs 2,212 44%
Crustaceans 1,735 35%
Corals 856 27%
Arachnids 32 56%
11 82%
4 0%
Others 52 46%
Subtotal 6,161 41%
Plants Number
of species evaluated
threatened, as % of species evaluated
Mosses 95 86%
and allies
211 66%
Gymnosperms 910 35%
Dicotyledons 9,624 74%
Monocotyledons 1,155 68%
2 0%
58 16%
Subtotal 12,055 70%
Others Number
of species evaluated
threatened, as % of species evaluated
Lichens 2 100%
Mushrooms 1 100%
15 40%
Subtotal 18 50%
TOTAL 44,838 38%

It’s important to note that this table may make things appear to be even worse than they are. This is because, not all species were evaluated. Generally, the table is biased towards species that are thought to be threatened, species for which data are readily available, and under-reporting of Least Concern species.

Having said that, it’s still concerning to see so many species (16,928 to be exact) under threat from extinction. 

What Is the IUCN Red List?

Here’s IUCN’s description of the Red List:

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.

The Full IUCN Red List

The full IUCN red list is available via a searchable database at You can also download this Excel spreadsheet containing statistics of the 2008 list.

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