Trapping and vaccination of endangered Ethiopian wolves to control an outbreak of rabies

Authors

  • D. L. Knobel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH25 9RG, UK;
    2. Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, PO Box 215, Robe, Bale, Ethiopia;
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  • A. R. Fooks,

    1. Rabies and Wildlife Zoonoses Group, Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA, Weybridge), WHO Collaborating Centre for the Characterization of Rabies and Rabies-Related Viruses, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK;
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  • S. M. Brookes,

    1. Rabies and Wildlife Zoonoses Group, Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA, Weybridge), WHO Collaborating Centre for the Characterization of Rabies and Rabies-Related Viruses, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK;
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  • D. A. Randall,

    1. Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, PO Box 215, Robe, Bale, Ethiopia;
    2. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney OX13 5QL, UK;
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  • S. D. Williams,

    1. Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, PO Box 215, Robe, Bale, Ethiopia;
    2. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney OX13 5QL, UK;
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    • Present address: Fauna & Flora International, Great Eastern House, Tenison Road, Cambridge CB1 2TT, UK.

  • K. Argaw,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, PO Box 386, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and
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  • F. Shiferaw,

    1. National Animal Health Research Centre (EARO), PO Box 15341, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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  • L. A. Tallents,

    1. Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, PO Box 215, Robe, Bale, Ethiopia;
    2. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney OX13 5QL, UK;
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  • M. K. Laurenson

    1. Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH25 9RG, UK;
    2. Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, PO Box 215, Robe, Bale, Ethiopia;
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Correspondence author. E-mail darryn.knobel@ed.ac.uk

Summary

  • 1As outbreaks of infectious diseases have emerged as a threat to small populations, conservation managers are increasingly making decisions regarding whether and how to intervene in such situations. Past controversies and lack of knowledge and firm guidelines may inhibit this process. We present data on a vaccination campaign against a rabies outbreak in endangered Ethiopian wolves as a case study of a disease-control intervention in a threatened population.
  • 2Ethiopian wolves on the periphery of the outbreak area were trapped to administer a dose of injectable rabies vaccine and to assess the magnitude and duration of the immune response. The expansion of an established population monitoring programme allowed us to assess the factors influencing the probability of capturing particular animals and to evaluate the overall success of the intervention.
  • 3All wolves sampled 1 month after vaccination had protective levels of serum antibody titres. A booster dose administered within 1–6 months appeared to be necessary to maintain these levels. Females were less likely to be trapped than expected, if dispersing females were included in the population. Animals captured in the first trapping session were more likely to be recaptured if the pack was trapped again.
  • 4The intervention was successful in halting the spread of the rabies outbreak and had few short-term impacts on the population of wolves and non-target species.
  • 5Synthesis and applications. Demographic, spatial and behavioural heterogeneities within populations may affect vaccine uptake or delivery and thus the efficacy of vaccine-based interventions. Managers of populations of threatened species should ensure that disease-control programmes are carefully designed to maximize information gained on all aspects of an intervention, and thus to evaluate its outcome and impact. Dissemination and discussion of results is crucial in order to apply what has been learnt to similar scenarios in the same or related populations.

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