Wolf Compressed

Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Conserving critically endangered Ethiopian wolves  

Partners: Chulalongkorn University, Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute and Airbus Foundation

Key Species: Ethiopian wolf, giant mole rat, Bale monkey, mountain nyala, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Ethiopian banana frog

2024 Award Winner 

The Bale Mountains National Park stands as a beacon of biodiversity, unrivalled in its abundance of endemic species both regionally and globally.

At the core of this natural wonder lies the Afro-alpine realm, a sanctuary harbouring more than half of the world's Ethiopian wolf population, a species teetering on the edge of extinction, where just 366 individuals remain. Among the other treasures of this ecosystem are the Bale monkey, Ethiopian banana frog and the giant mole-rat, exclusive residents found nowhere else on our planet. 

Yet, despite its ecological significance, the Bale Mountains face formidable challenges. Habitat degradation, overgrazing, encroaching settlements and the looming threat of disease transmission from domestic dogs, underscores the urgent need for conservation action. 

Empowered by technology 

Armed with high resolution satellite imagery donated by the Airbus Foundation, and funding and technical support from Connected Conservation Foundation, a team from Chulalongkorn University and the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute is determined to turn the tide. Their new project aims to harness the power of Remote Sensing, Artificial Intelligence and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to monitor and protect these Ethiopian wolf habitats. At its core lies the Web Valley, a vital sanctuary for these wolves, where the project aims to tackle the complex interplay between habitat dynamics and human activities. 

Informing targeted conservation 

Rigorous evaluation methods, including transect surveys and Object-Based Image Classification of land use, will help them unravel the intricate relationship between habitat pressures, giant mole rat (wolf prey) prevalence, livestock impacts and wolf distribution. 

By understanding how these factors intersect, the project will inform targeted conservation efforts that strike at the root of the problem. From strategic exclusion zones for livestock to community-based initiatives promoting coexistence, to preserve the delicate balance of the Bale Mountains ecosystem.  

A blueprint for change

Long-term, the team hopes that lessons learned here could be echoed across Ethiopia and beyond, offering hope for other endangered species facing similar threats, especially those with an overlapping home range such as the big-headed African mole rat.  


Bale Mountains
Getachew Mulualem (1)
Bale Mountains Threats

Quality begets quality. Access to quality satellite data and funding to navigate research challenges, such as logistics and qualified extra hands, will go a long way in raising the overall impact of our work. 

Mr. Nji T. Ndeh, Chulalongkorn University

Species factfile

Ethiopian wolves

The Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) stands as one of the rarest canids globally, inhabiting the highlands of Ethiopia. Renowned for its distinctive red coat and slender frame, this species epitomises adaptability in the harsh Afroalpine environment.

Endemic to the Ethiopian highlands, the Ethiopian wolf roams across vast expanses of Afroalpine grasslands and heathlands, navigating rugged terrains with agility and grace. Once widely distributed throughout Ethiopia's mountain ranges, the Ethiopian wolf now faces significant threats to its survival.

It is classified as endangered, primarily due to habitat fragmentation, disease transmission from domestic dogs and human encroachment. Conservation efforts are focused on habitat preservation, disease management and community engagement to secure the future of this iconic species and its unique mountain ecosystem.

Giant mole rat

The Big-headed African mole-rat (Fukomys mechowii) is a fascinating species endemic to certain regions of Africa, particularly found in sandy soils and savannas. These remarkable creatures are renowned for their large, bulbous heads, which they use for digging intricate tunnel systems underground.

These underground architects are key contributors to soil aeration and nutrient cycling, influencing the health of their ecosystems.

Despite their importance, Big-headed African mole rats face threats such as habitat degradation, predation and climate change. Conservation efforts aimed at habitat preservation, minimising habitat fragmentation and raising awareness about the significance of these unique creatures are crucial for their survival.

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