Atlas Golden Wolf Project
The Atlas Golden Wolf Project, founded and led by Liz AD Campbell, is a research, conservation, monitoring and community engagement project that aims to understand and conserve the African golden wolf and Atlas Mountain biodiversity in Morocco.
The African golden wolf (Canis anthus/Canis lupaster) is a newly discovered species that had previously been misidentified as the golden jackal (C. aureus), a species found in Europe and Asia that is very similar in appearance. Genetic evidence revealed in 2015 that these African canids are a new and distinct species, most closely related to grey wolves and coyotes. The conservation status of the African golden wolf requires urgent assessment, yet there is a general lack of information on the species’ ecology, abundance, and threats, particularly in North Africa. Although population sizes are currently unknown, golden wolves are suspected to be declining across their range.
Our research uses a mixture of ecological, molecular genetic and social science techniques, with three main areas of focus: Behavioural Ecology, Conservation Status and Threats, and Human-Predator Conflict.
Knowledge of a species’ ecology is crucial for developing informed conservation plans, yet very little is known of North African golden wolves. To address this knowledge gap, the Atlas Golden Wolf Project gathers fundamental information on the behavioural ecology of Atlas golden wolves as well as their interactions with other Atlas species, particularly canid competitors and prey. This information is crucial for identifying appropriate management strategies, understanding the differences between North African wolves and other populations and understanding the keystone role that wolves play in the Atlas Mountains community. Furthermore, the Atlas Mountains are a unique environment for the species, one of the only places where African golden wolves face cold, snowy winters, which contrasts with the hot, dry summers. One of our research focuses is to investigate how Atlas wolves adapt their behaviour and ecology to cope with this extreme environment.
Conservation Status and Threats
Dramatic population declines of golden wolves in Morocco predicts their extinction within decades if these trends continue.
We are therefore assessing golden wolf population size and investigating what are likely their greatest long-term conservation threats, including loss of genetic diversity, loss of habitat and prey, competition with sympatric canids and hybridization with abundant feral dogs, in order to develop and evaluate conservation initiatives.
The greatest immediate threat to the survival of Atlas golden wolves is human persecution from conflict over livestock. The coexistence of humans and carnivores requires integration of ecological and social components, not only to reduce livestock depredation but also increase peoples’ tolerance towards carnivores. AGWP therefore aims to quantify, understand, and mitigate human-wolf conflict by studying livestock predation patterns to develop evidence-based prevention strategies and conducting sociodemographic research on attitudes and behaviours towards predators to increase tolerance through targeted outreach and education initiatives.
AGWP collaborates with Moulay Ismail University and Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco and is generously supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for genetic analyses, and the UK Wolf Conservation Trust for field work support.