Radio Ethiopia investigates dog-shooting at Bale Mountains National Park

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2003:

ADDIS ABABA–The shooting of homeless
dogs at Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia,
and the history behind it, reported on page one
of the November 2003 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,
reached the Ethiopian public for the first time
on December 15 via Radio Ethiopia.
“The journalist sent to report what was
going on reported the reality,” e-mailed Homeless
Animal Protection Society cofounder Efrem
Legesse, including “the interviews he got from
us, the local community living around the park,
the park warden, and Ethiopian Wolf Conservation
Program director Stuart Williams. It was
broadcast three times at noon, when most
Ethiopians listen to the news.”


Legesse and HAPS cofounder Hana Kifle,
both employees of Bale Mountains National Park,
had been confined to the park headquarters,
Legeese said, for embarrassing the EWCP by
informing ANIMAL PEOPLE about the dog-shooting.
“We listened to the news at our residence
in the park,” Legesse said, “and all our
friends came to congratulate us. We are still
receiving good wishes. At the same time the EWCP
and the park administrators are under great
tension. Nobody knows what the government will
decide.”
Radio Ethiopia was expected to follow up
as the December edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE went to
press.
The issue is not just that dogs were
shot. The issue is that the dogs were shot on
the pretext of stopping a rabies outbreak which
could have been averted if the EWCP and several
tiers of public officials had heeded more than
two years of warnings and attempts by HAPS to get
help.
The EWCP, supported by the Born Free
Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, and the
Frankfurt Zoo, has funded some vaccination and
sterilization of working dogs and companion dogs
in the Bale Mountains National Park area since
1996, to protect the last remnant Ethiopian wolf
population from rabies and the chance of
hybridization.
Legesse and Kifle have assisted and
encouraged the vaccination and sterilization
program from the beginning, and have urged that
homeless dogs should also be treated at least
since May 2001, when ANIMAL PEOPLE published
Legesse’s guest essay “The dogs of Bale.”
EWCP founder Claudio Sillero, now
conservation director for Born Free, urged the
eradication of the homeless dogs, and
acknowledges having shot at least 12 dogs.
Succeeding Sillero, Stuart Williams in April
2002 proposed to shoot homeless dogs, then
retreated when the proposal was exposed by ANIMAL
PEOPLE. Williams later denied that there are any
resident homeless dogs near Bale Mountains
National Park.
In August 2003 Kifle photographed a wolf
with an apparent head bite who was far beyond the
normal wolf range and acting oddly. Kifle
reported that the wolf appeared to be rabid, but
the EWCP did not acknowledge that a rabies
outbreak was underway until October. Two EWCP
veterinarians and two Ethiopian Wildlife
Conservation Organization vets on October 20
jointly recommended that homeless dogs in the
vicinity should be shot.
On November 6 Sillero asserted that “The
EWCP and Born Free have no involvement whatsoever
with any current or planned destruction of
domestic dogs in Bale,” but shooting began the
same day. On November 10 HAPS e-mailed
photographs of the shooting to ANIMAL PEOPLE. On
November 12 Born Free issued a
statement–published by ANIMAL PEOPLE–defending
the shooting.
The November 2003 ANIMAL PEOPLE exposé
“Conservation group experts urged dog shooting”
had barely reached the Internet when Ethiopian
Wildlife Conservation Organization manager
Taddesse Hayilu faxed to ANIMAL PEOPLE a
three-page denial of just about everything.
Ironically, however, Hayilu began by
reciting almost the same background already
furnished by HAPS.
“The legislation of Ethiopia stipulates
that domestic animals, including dogs, are
prohibited from entering national parks,” Hayilu
began. “Rabies is pandemic in Ethiopia. It
represents a threat to wildlife –most
particularly the Ethiopian wolf. Since the
beginning of the current outbreak, 28 wolves are
known to have died. Up to 12 more are missing.
In the villages in this area, 34 dogs contracted
the disease and were killed by the local people.
In addition, 20 cattle were bitten by rabid dogs
and destroyed, again by the local people. At
least one person has been bitten; apparently he
did not travel to Addis Ababa for treatment
because he did not have the means to do so.”
Hayilu did not respond when ANIMAL PEOPLE
pointed out that if an eight-member dog-shooting
team could be hauled from Addis Ababa to Bale
Mountains National Park in three vehicles, as
photographs from HAPS and written reports from
Hayilu’s agency document was done, a supply of
post-exposure vaccine and a nurse qualified to
administer it could have been transported to the
park with relative ease. That would have ensured
that anyone who was bitten could receive prompt
life-saving treatment.
“The Government of Ethiopia has a policy
of shooting feral dogs within national parks,”
Hayilu continued. “This is rarely implemented
because there are so few feral dogs: recent
research in the Bale Mountains National Park has
shown that there are no resident feral dogs,”
Hayilu said, apparently citing Williams.
“However, feral dogs do come in from outside
protected areas,” Hayilu acknowledged, not
mentioning that the park boundaries are not
fenced, and that there are no obstacles to
homeless dogs from the nearby villages entering
the park at any time–or fleeing into the park to
find cover from gunfire.
“Given the threat of transmission of
disease to Ethiopian wolves, humans and domestic
livestock, they [feral dogs] should be destroyed
as quickly, humanely and safely as possible. In
the circumstances, this is by shooting them,”
Hayilu asserted.
“We are wholly aware that mass or
widespread shooting of dogs is not a sustainable
solution to managing either diseases or dog
populations,” Hayilu admitted. “This is the
reason we have the policy of killing only feral
dogs,” but Hayilu did not explain how anyone can
distinguish a feral dog from any other,
especially when all of the dogs in a village are
running from gunshots.
“The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program
vaccinates 2,000-2,500 dogs in Bale a year,”
Hayilu said.
But the annual reports of the EWCP,
available for downloading in PDF format at
<www.wildcru.org>, claim to have vaccinated only
1,475 dogs total since the project began.
“Over the past four years, no more than
eight feral dogs have been shot in Bale, five of
whom were killed because they were killing and
feeding on endangered mountain nyala,” Hayilu
said. “Since the outbreak of rabies, only one
feral dog has been found and shot by park staff
in wolf range.”
HAPS, however, described the shooting of four
dogs just on November 6, and as many as five
dogs were in the photo published by ANIMAL PEOPLE
of an Ethiopian official shooting at a small
pack– although that shot missed, Legesse said.
“The threat of shooting feral dogs is a
useful means of encouraging local people to
manage their dogs: to tie them up and have them
vaccinated when the opportunity arises. This is
necessary because people have such a low regard
for dogs,” Hayilu asserted.
Yet many of the villagers near Bale
Mountains National Park supplied supportive
statements to Legesse when he assembled “The dogs
of Bale,” and were quite critical then of past
dog-shooting and poisoning.
“With the Oromiya government and the
EWCP, we are going to seek alternative solutions
to reduce domestic dog populations in national
parks by 1) education, 2) having people take
responsibility for their livestock, and 3)
teaching people to dig and use pit latrines,”
Hayilu promised.
But Hayilu did not recommend extending
vaccination and sterilization to the homeless
dogs, who according to the villagers Legesse
interviewed are the majority of dogs in the
vicinity. Radio Ethiopia apparently affirmed
this finding.
The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation
Organization on November 7 finally authorized
orally vaccinating the surviving Ethiopian wolves
against rabies. WWF pledged to fund the wolf
vaccinations.

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